Drone Law Blog


Ultimate Guide to Drone Anti-Collision Lights (2018)

drone-anti-collision-lights

Are you searching for a drone anti-collision light?

 

There are some great benefits to using a drone anti-collision light for recreational, public safety, and commercial operations.  It increases safety and gives you greater flexibility in your operations. Remember to go over the list of tips and considerations before you buy anything because each drone anti-collision light has its own strengths and weaknesses.

 

Table of Contents:

 

Why Drone Anti-Collision Lights?

So you might be saying to yourself, “Hey, why would I need some anti-collision lights for my drone? I already have lights on my drone!”

 

1. Helps you, and others, see the drone better. Yes, you might have some built-in drone lights but typically they are almost invisible during the day and not that bright during the night. This is where drone anti-collision lights come in help you and others see the drone during the day and night.

 

Remember that lights don’t solve all your night operational problems. What good are these lights if you don’t have training on how to fly at night? If you are looking at training for night operations, there is a Night Operations Video Course over at Rupprecht Drones that covers the night visual illusions and their remedies, physiological conditions which may degrade night vision, proper nighttime scanning techniques, and discusses more on aircraft lighting and considerations on how to mount the lights.

 

2. Required under Part 107 for civil twilight flying. Section 107.29 allows remote pilots to fly during civil twilight (twice daily: starting 30 minutes before sunrise to sunrise & sunset to 30 minutes after sunset). The big point is that the drone anti-collision lights must be visible for 3 statute miles or greater. There is a good chance your wimpy built-in drone anti-collision lights won’t cut it.

 

3. Some of the Part 107 waivers require them. The night waiver, reduced visibility, and beyond line of sight waivers typically use drone anti-collision lights as a method of helping other aircraft to see your drone flying. If you are planning on operating under one of these waivers, you should think about obtaining some good anti-collision lights visible for 3 statute miles or more. If you are wanting to learn more about Part 107 night waivers for your public safety or commercial operation, I have an entire article on this topic. If you are interested in obtaining a night waiver, contact me. I have over 90 night waiver approvals.

 

 

What are Drone Anti-Collision Lights?

Not everything is an anti-collision light. This is where everyone gets confused.

 

Anti-collision lights are (1) red or white and (2) blinking/strobing.

Navigation lights are: (1) red, green, and white and (2) solid. Here is a picture from the Rupprecht Drones Night Operations Video Course that visually explains navigation lights on manned aircraft.

drone-navigation-lights

This is extremely important because you need to make sure your lights communicate accurate information to other aircraft so they can see and avoid your drone. There are lights being sold out there in blue, yellow, etc. but these colors do not mean anything to other aircraft. 

 

One great example of a light communications failure is your DJI Phantom which totally fails at having navigation lights. (e.g. the green lights should not be on the back but the front right and back right.)

 

In addition to the colors, the drone anti-collision light needs to be blinking/strobing.

 

So am I stuck putting only one light on my drone?

No, you could put on multiple drone anti-collision lights!  You could have a blinking red one and a blinking white one to increase the visibility of your aircraft!

 

Additionally, you could also equip your aircraft with navigation lights which can be used for orientation.   Section 107.31 says the remote pilot in command: “must be able to see the unmanned aircraft throughout the entire flight in order to: (1) Know the unmanned aircraft’s location;  (2) Determine the unmanned aircraft’s attitude, altitude, and direction of flight[.]” Some of these drone lights can be purchased in different colors such as green and red and used as navigation lights. Some of the drone anti-collision lights on the market have the ability to change their patterns (blinking, strobe, or solid). This means if you have a red anti-collision light and can change the pattern to solid, you now have a red navigation light for the left hand side of your aircraft.

 

What Types of Drone Anti-Collision Lights Are There?

They are either portable or built in. Most modern day drones have built in drone anti-collision lights. There are some after market lights that can mounted through different methods (3M tape, straps, special mount, etc.) and they are powered with either LIPO batteries or some type of disposable battery (alkaline or lead/acid).

 

 

Drone Anti-Collision Light Tips/Considerations:

1. How many lights do you need? Some aircraft shapes don’t work so well. You might need to have 2 or more lights to ensure that light is being spread out.

 

2. How omni-directional is the light? You want a light that spreads the light and not just some directional light like the Lume Cube.

 

3. Are you planning on also outfitting your drone with navigation lights? Maybe consider purchasing a drone anti-collision light that is capable of being solid or a strobe in case you have a light failure. This way if your red drone anti-collision light fails or runs out of battery power, you could change the red solid light to a red strobe to act as the drone anti-collision light. It’s a backup.

 

4. Are you flying in the rain, snow, fog, etc.?  Your DJI Matrice might be waterproof but are your drone anti-collision lights? Some of these drone anti-collision lights are NOT water resistant. Some are waterproof and some water resistant. You might need a few drone anti-collision lights in your tool box to complete the mission.

 

5. Red or white?  A red LED does not mess up your night vision like a white light does but a white light is wayyyy more visible. One cool trick is if you can make your red strobe go a solid red, you can then use it like a flash light. Might come in handy if ya dropped something and need to find it. :)

 

6. How long are you planning on operating these things for? Some options have options to draw from the power of the drone while some of the portable ones are LIPO batteries that have to be recharged. Yes, they are LEDs so their run time can be for a long time and they are low cost enough so you could always keep a second one in your bag. One anti-collision light uses 2 alkaline acid AA batteries.

 

7. Consider the lifting capability of the aircraft. Some drone anti-collision lights are low weight while others weigh more. Keep this in mind as weight will always affect your flight times.

 

8. Are the lights visible for 3 statute miles or more? While recreational flyers do not have a 3 statute mile requirement, Part 107 flyers do. Make sure the manufacturer does say that the light is visible for 3 statute miles or more. If you want to take things one step further, maybe print the web page out that says the light is visible for 3 statute miles or more in case an FAA inspector or police officer asks.

 

9. Do you have to do anything else to make it operational? Some of the portable type of drone anti-collision lights are all self-contained while others you might have to wire in or buy a kit/mount to put them on the aircraft. Just compare below the Firehouse Technologies ARC with the North American Survival Systems DS-30.

Drone Anti-Collision Lights for Sale

Before we dive in, I want to say that I’m not being paid to write this. Aveo Engineering, ACR, and Firehouse Technologies were all kind enough to send me units to test out.

 

ACR Firefly Pro SOLAS

drone-anti-collision-light-ACR-fireflyThis light was not originally designed for drones. This is really an emergency distress strobe that is waterproof. I was looking for an all-weather drone anti-collision light to mount to a Matrice. This is important for fire departments (they do spray water everywhere), mountain rescue in the snow, search and rescue in the rain, etc. The light has been “Factory tested to 33 feet.” So I guess if you accidentally crash the drone in the lake, you might be able to find it blinking at the bottom and at least get your strobe light back.

 

The Firefly PRO Solas emergency strobe light boasts an all-new light output power management system that produces over 41 candelas of light per strobe for up to 56 hours of use (with AA lithium batteries). Using wide-light emission LEDs, it cuts through even the toughest conditions, creating a super-bright flash visible for over 3 miles.

 

As I said, it was not designed for drones so it is heavy compared to all other drone anti-collision lights because it uses two AA alkaline batteries. It weighs around 2.39 ounces.

 

It has solid, strobe, and S-O-S morse code flashing. It is only white.

 

Aveo Engineering’s PicoMax Drone Anti-collision Light

drone-anti-collision-light-picomaxThis is a very elegant drone anti-collision light. This strobe comes in either red or white. There is a cover for the USB port which makes it somewhat water resistant. Additionally, there are two tunnels right through the middle of the light which allow you greater flexibility to mount it to the aircraft with some type of bungee cord or string.  If you don’t like that, you can always do the 3M tape underneath.

 

Aveo’s website says:

Battery operated with DC adapter recharging, the PicoMax™ will strobe for longer than your drone flies on its charge. Exceeding the 2 nautical mile standard, the PicoMax™ actually surpasses 3 nm, and due to its proprietary Aveo firmware and circuitry it offers the brightest and fully airworthy tested features for the serious drone operator.

 

One thing to keep in mind when storing this is to make sure the button can’t be pressed or you’ll find out your light is dead when you go to operate it. There isn’t like a cover or cap to protect the button from being pushed.

 

Survival Systems DS-30 Strobe

This is a popular strobe. This strobe using a 9 volt battery is weaker than the Picomax or Firehouse Technologies ARC lights. I don’t know the brightness if a 11 volt 3S battery is used. The reason I bring this up is I know some of the small add on kits/mounts for the DS-30 use the a lead/acid 9 volt.

 

Firehouse Technologies ARC

These strobes are becoming very popular because they are low cost, you can mount them almost anywhere with the 3M tape, and they are very bright. Everything you need to charge and mount comes in the kit.

 

It now features 4 cree lights in one unit and a new improved interface with 3 lighting modes, Strobe, Flash, and a fixed (solid) mode. We also have a charge indicator. Its available in White, Red, Green Or Blue or Tri Color please scroll down to see color drop down menu when ordering.

 

Keep in mind that these are not waterproof or really resistant. (Maybe you could spray some of that water repellent sealer on it?) The plastic wrapping on the edges is open so dirt and water can get in through the sides. Additionally, with wear and tear, the plastic will tear and you might have to fix things with clear tape.

 

Further Reading:

How to Fly Your Drone at Night-(Part 107 Night Waiver)

Rupprecht Drones Night Operations Video Course (Designed for the Part 107 Night Waiver).

 

Conclusion:

There are some great benefits to using a drone anti-collision light for recreational, public safety, and commercial operations.  It increases safety and gives you greater flexibility in your operations. Remember to go over the list of tips and considerations before you buy anything because each drone anti-collision light has its own strengths and weaknesses.

 

What good are these lights if you don’t have training on how to fly at night? If you are looking at training for night operations, there is a Night Operations Video Course over at Rupprecht Drones that covers the night visual illusions and their remedies, physiological conditions which may degrade night vision, proper nighttime scanning techniques, and discusses more on aircraft lighting and considerations on how to mount the lights.

 

If you are wanting to learn more about Part 107 night waivers for your public safety or commercial operation, I have an entire article on this topic. If you are interested in obtaining a night waiver, contact me. I have over 90 night waiver approvals.


Drone Sprayers: Uses, Laws & Regulations, Tips to Save Money (2018)

drone-spraying

Interested in a drone sprayer?

 

Drones are really just aerial platforms from which to do things. Most people associate drones as data collection platforms where you mount sensors such as cameras, LIDAR, etc., but drones can also be used for the delivery of all sorts of other things besides just drone package delivery or medical delivery. One great example is using the drone as a drone sprayer.

 

I’m a commercial pilot, current FAA certificated flight instructor, aviation attorney, and professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I distilled into this article some of the important points that I have used as I have assisted clients in successfully obtaining Federal Aviation Administration approvals to operate their drone sprayers. If you need my help with exemptions, a Part 107 night waiver, going through the 137 agricultural aircraft operator certification, please contact me for pricing.

 

Table of Contents:

 

Drone Sprayer Examples:

I’m going to touch on the high points of each of these drone sprayer uses. Please keep in mind that each drone sprayer has is own set of unique problems, economics, laws, etc. My commentary is not an exhaustive discussion on the whole area.

 

A. Pollen Drone Sprayer

There is a problematic decline of bee population numbers around the United States which has been caused for various reasons. Dropcopter has stepped into this gap with a very innovative idea of using their drone sprayer to pollinate crops.

As a Digital Trends article put it,

“Pollination by drone isn’t the only alternative to insect pollination, but it may just be the most efficient current solution. Alternatives include using large tractor-mounted liquid sprayers or leaf blowers driven on quad bikes. Both of these are problematic due to the lack of reach and, in the case of liquid sprayers, the time-sensitive nature of the pollen once it gets mixed with liquid. Dropcopter’s drones, meanwhile, can cover 40 acres per hour, and can double the pollination window by also flying at night. This is one advantage they even have over bees since bees don’t fly at nighttime, when flowers remain open.”

 

It also appears that their Dropcopter can maybe increase yields. Dropcopter’s website says, “Dropcopter completed its patent pending prototype, and conducted the first ever UAS pollination of orchards crops, boosting crop set by 10%.”

 

B. Drones for Spraying Insecticides (Mosquito Control, etc.)

Because of their ability to communicate diseases, fighting mosquitoes is a big thing around the U.S. Mosquito abatement organizations are seeking to actively use drones to help fight mosquitoes. Recently, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the Drone Integration Pilot Program. The DOT picked ten winners, one of which is the Lee County Mosquito Control District located in Ft. Myers Florida. “The proposal focuses on low-altitude aerial applications to control/surveille the mosquito population using a 1500-lb. UAS.”  Lee County is not the only mosquito control district interested in using drones for spraying pesticides. Other control districts currently have drone sprayer programs underway.

If you are a government agency that fights mosquitoes or other pests, there is the potential for your operations to be done under a certain type of classification called a public aircraft operation which gives your operation more flexibility than non-government entities. See below for a discussion.  If you are interested in helping your mosquito control district use drone sprayers, contact me.

Mosquitoes are not the only insects you might be interested in fighting. Drone Volt created a mount to spray insecticide on hornet nests way up in trees.

 

C. Crop Dusting Drones (Herbicide, Fertilizer, Fungicide, etc.)

Drone sprayers seem like a good choice to be crop dusting drones but there are MANY variables here that affect whether it is a good decision for your situation or not. Factors that influence whether this makes sense or not are:

  • Type of crop,
  • Value of the crop,
  • Ground size of the crop,
  • Droplet size requirements to be placed on the crop,
  • How quickly you need to spray a particular chemical on a crop (is there a window of time?), and
  • How much liquid you need to spray.

For large areas of land, manned aircraft and ground spraying rigs make more sense based upon cost per acre compared to crop dusting drones. Read my section below on the economics to understand this fully.  For smaller pieces of land or land that is inaccessible to ground rigs or manned aircraft, it might make sense to use crop dusting drones.

D. Drone Tree Seed Planter

 

Drone Seed is looking to corner the market on precision forestry.  Not only can it do a potentially dangerous job of planting trees on the slopes of steep inclines but it can also potentially do it faster than by workers on foot.

E. Wind Turbine De-Icing Drone Sprayer

The Verge did an article on the company Aerones which built a large drone sprayer with some serious lifting capacity to fly up and spray de-icing fluid on wind turbine blades.  The Verge article explained:

“The craft has a tether line supplying water, which it sprays at up to 100 liters a minute (with optional de-icing coating), and another for power, meaning it can stay aloft indefinitely. Cleaning by drone costs around $1,000, compared to $5,000 and up for cleaning by climbers.

The process is good for general maintenance, but also helps increase power efficiency. If snow and ice build up on a turbine’s blades, it slows the rate at which they produce power and can even bring it to a complete halt. Aerones adds that using a drone for de-icing is both quicker and safer than sending humans up using a cherry picker”

 

Drone Sprayer Economics

There is far more hype to this area that is being driven by possibilities rather than economics.

Drones are mobile platforms to spray from. There are other mobile platforms such as:

  • Manned aircraft (airplanes and helicopters)
  • Ground spraying rigs (tractor pulled, truck mounted, etc.)
  • Humans (Backpack sprayer)

Each of these platforms has pros and cons that need to be weighed against the benefits of the drone sprayer. For the discussions below, I’m assuming someone would be purchasing something like the HSE or DJI drone sprayers.

 

1. Manned Aircraft (Airplanes & Helicopters) vs. Drone Sprayers

Manned Aircraft: Most drone sprayers cannot carry a large payload compared to manned aircraft.  Manned aircraft also are lower in cost per acre than drone sprayer operations. For crop spraying,  drone sprayers won’t be used for large acres of land because the spraying rate per day is also way too small compared to manned aircraft which can spray thousands of gallons in one day. This is a major point people miss. There are narrow windows of time to spray crops due to all sorts of things such as weather, chemical being sprayed, growth cycle, etc. Simply put, drone sprayers cannot spray fast enough because their tanks are small.

Drone Sprayers: Drones have the ability to service clients who have smaller amounts of land or area inaccessible to manned aircraft.

 

2. Ground Spraying Rigs (Tractor Pulled, Truck Mounted, etc.)

Ground Spraying Rigs: They do not have to deal with the FAA and all those hassles. They can also hold much more spraying material than a drone.

Drone Sprayers: Drone sprayers can access areas that ground spraying rigs cannot, such as uneven, steep, or inaccessible terrain or sensitive environments where the ground vehicles would damage the area or crops. Drone sprayers are lower in cost to purchase and maintain.

 

3. Humans (Backpack Sprayer)

Backpack Sprayer:  Super cheap to purchase ($90) compared to a drone sprayer. No FAA problems.

Drone Sprayers: You can access areas with less danger to your employees. (Slip and fall anyone? Hello workers’ compensation claims.) Potentially more time efficient. Less exhausting than walking around with a hand pump sprayer. Depending on batteries and how quickly you can refill, this can be more time efficient than backpack sprayers.

 

 

So Where Do Drone Sprayers Fit In?

When you go to the home improvement store to buy some paint, you’ll notice that there are small spray paint cans, low cost electric paint sprayers, and large metal heavy duty commercial sprayers. By analogy, drone sprayers fill a sweet spot that is similar to low cost electric paint sprayers.

You have to focus on the strengths of drone sprayers to see where they shine:

  • Able to get into locations that manned aircraft, ground spraying tractors, or hand sprayers cannot access.
  • Safer than hand spraying.
  • Lower acquisition costs versus larger pieces of equipment (ground spraying tractors) or manned aircraft. Do you really need to buy that ground spraying rig?
  • Easy and low cost to transport and deploy. (Ground spraying rigs you have to drive or tow there.  Manned aircraft you have to fly to the location).
  • Able to service smaller clients that would not have hired a manned aircraft.

 

Can You Give Me Some Drone Spraying Examples?

  • High value crops that tend to cover smaller acres of land (vineyards, apple orchards, almond orchards, etc.).
  • Spraying pollen on higher value crops to increase crop yields.
  • Crops on terrain that is too inaccessible or inconvenient to get to with a ground sprayer yet is too small to justify hiring a manned aircraft spraying operation.
  • Herbicide spraying on rocky embankments near a water reservoir where you don’t want to endanger your employees or you have a hard time getting to the rocky areas with the ground rig.
  • Mosquito abatement in areas that ground vehicles (or boats) cannot easily get to and that don’t justify the use of manned aircraft.
  • You’re a company that is running an in-house operation testing out aerial application of chemicals or on a particular type of plant.

What About Costs? How Much Does a Spraying Drone Operation Cost?

Yes, those examples didn’t really take into account the total drone sprayer operational costs.  Here are some rough numbers you can use to go off of:

  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Related:
    • FAA Registration ($5 per drone). Good for 3 years.
    • FAA Remote Pilot Certificate Knowledge Exam ($150 per remote pilot). Aeronautical test knowledge is good for 24 months.
    • Study Material for Remote Pilot Test (Free-$250)  (I have a huge free study guide for the test located here).
    • If you are spraying anything other than just pure water,
      • You’ll need a Part 137 Agricultural Aircraft Operator Certificate ($0 per operator but will take time). Indefinite.
      • Exemption ($0 per operator but will take time and legal knowledge.) Lasts 2 years.
    • Need to spray at night? Part 107 night waiver.  ($0) Lasts 4 years.
  • Drone Sprayer Insurance. I can’t estimate this because there are many factors here.   Read my article on drone insurance before you buy some.
  • Crop Dusting Drone Sprayer & Equipment.  (13,000-40,000)
  • Spraying Pesticide? You’ll need a state restricted use pesticide license. (Around $100 to $250). Things can cause this to fluctuate so you’ll have to check your state.)

 

If you need my help with exemptions, a Part 107 night waiver, going through the 137 agricultural aircraft operator certification, please contact me for pricing.

 

Now before you start making business plans. You need to know that these drones are considered aircraft. Aircraft are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”). In addition to the FAA, other U.S. Federal laws may apply to your operation.

 

United States Drone Spraying Law

A. Federal Drone Spraying Law

1. Federal Aviation Regulations

Just at the get go, if you are a government agency, some of these regulations might NOT apply to you. This is completely beyond the scope of this article but I have talked about it more over here.

 

Part 107

Most commercial drone operators follow Part 107. There are other legal methods of getting your aircraft airborne legally but this is the most time and cost efficient. Basically, Part 107 requires the drone sprayer to be registered, the pilot to have a remote pilot certificate, and for the operations to be done according to the restrictions listed in Part 107. Click here to read up on the complete summary of what Part 107 says.

 

Here are the two most important things you need to know about Part 107 in relation to spraying drones:

  1. Part 107 is only for drones that weigh on take-off less than 55 pounds and
  2. You cannot carry hazardous material on the drone.

 

Now these are not deal breakers but you’ll need exemptions from these restrictions. Exemptions do not cost anything to file with the FAA but they do take time and legal knowledge to make sure you have identified all the regulations you need to be exempted from. If you don’t have the time or knowledge, you can hire people, like me, to help you with this.

 

Also keep in mind that for 55 pound + exemptions, there are documents and data the FAA will want you to submit in support with the exemption. This data might NOT be supplied by the drone sprayer manufacturers, which means you need to create it or find someone who has. See tips below for more on this topic.

 

Part 137 – Agricultural Aircraft Operations. 

Part 137 specifically defines the applicability of this Part of the Code of Federal Regulations. Agricultural aircraft operation means the operation of an aircraft for the purpose of:

  1. Dispensing any economic poison,
  2. Dispensing any other substance intended for plant nourishment, soil treatment, propagation of plant life, or pest control, or
  3. Engaging in dispensing activities directly affecting agriculture, horticulture, or forest preservation, but not including the dispensing of live insects.

 

Part 137.3 defines economic poison:

Economic poison means (1) any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any insects, rodents, nematodes, fungi, weeds, and other forms of plant or animal life or viruses, except viruses on or in living man or other animals, which the Secretary of Agriculture shall declare to be a pest, and (2) any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant or desiccant.

 

Most spraying operations fall into the applicability of Part 137 and because of such, they’ll need exemptions from sections of this part. Why? Part 137 was created a long long time ago. The regulations designed for manned aircraft do not make sense with drone sprayers. Conveniently, if you are already getting an exemption from the prohibition in Part 107 to not carry hazardous materials (like economic poisons), you can just add the sections of Part 137 that you need exempting from all into one request for exemption document.

 

Here is a major point that people miss. In addition to the exemption to do agricultural aircraft operations, the operator will need to obtain an agricultural aircraft operator certificate. You can thankfully pursue both the exemption and certificate in parallel to speed things up but you’ll need the exemption approval before you get inspected by the FAA as the final step in getting your agricultural aircraft operator certificate.

 

2. Other Federal Regulations

Keep in mind the FAA isn’t the only federal agency you might have to deal with. There is also the Environmental Protection Agency and also the Occupational and Health Safety Administration which have regulations that apply.  Discussing these regulations is way outside the scope of this article but I wanted to mention this.

 

B. State & Local Drone Spraying Laws

There are state and local laws that apply to aerial application spraying (manned and unmanned spraying). This is a very broad area but just know that states require you to obtain some type of restricted use pesticide license to spray any economic poisons and typically you need the certification in the category you are performing the work (aerial application).

Some states require you have your drone sprayer registered with the FAA and even the state. The state won’t issue any state registration until you also show some drone insurance on your drone sprayer. This means you won’t be able to do some type of hourly insurance set up but will have to obtain annual insurance and request a certificate of insurance to show to the state.

Local laws also might apply depending on what you are spraying, when you are spraying, and where you are spraying.

 

Drone Sprayers for Sale

Right now, there are some companies that are manufacturing spraying drones. The drone sprayers listed below are ones I’m familiar with. I didn’t do an exhaustive search for all that is out there.

Keep in mind you don’t just buy the drone sprayer. You’ll be also thinking about purchasing a transport case, extra batteries, training, etc.

 

Tips on Starting a Drone Sprayer Operation (Read This Before You Buy)

1. Work With an Attorney

A. Attorney Client Relationship Protects Sensitive Conversations.  The attorney-client privilege protects conversations between the client and the attorney. This allows for open conversations regarding the legality of the operations.  “Was I supposed to do……..”  or “We just received a letter of investigation” are supposed to be brought up in the open and honest attorney-client discussion. There are alot of regulations that apply. Do you really want to rely on a non-attorney to give you legal advice? You’re the one getting the fines, not the consultant.

Please note that it is ATTORNEY client relationship and not consultant client relationship. The FAA, federal and state law enforcement, plaintiff’s attorneys, etc. can subpoena your consultant to testify against you. They can’t do that with an attorney except for really rare situations. The consultant is stuck between a rock and a hard place. They either tell the truth and goof you up, lie and risk jail, or refuse to answer and go to jail.  The answer is simple – you’ll get goofed over every time.

B. An attorney can actually provide legal advice – lawfully. You’re going to need a lot of answers regarding the laws. Almost all the states I know of require that people who provide legal advice be licensed attorneys in that state. Only attorneys can provide legal advice. If anyone claims they are an attorney, check the state bar directory in which they live to see if they are a current member in good standing. For example, if you go to the Florida Bar’s member search page, you can search for me and see that I’m eligible to practice law and in good standing with the Florida Bar.

I know of a person running around in the industry right now that calls themselves an attorney but that person is actually a disbarred attorney who was disbarred because of dishonest conduct towards the client. It will look pretty bad to your boss if you hire a so-called attorney who turns out to not be a LICENSED attorney.

C. They have a duty to you. – This is an important one. Yes, we all understand the idea of giving secrets away to a competitor is a big no-no. But consider this….as a Florida Bar attorney, I’m actually prohibited from paying out to any non-attorney or drone manufacturers any referral fees. This means that if I recommend something or someone, I’m recommending it because it is good, not because I’m getting paid for it. Furthermore, this means that people who refer to me are sending you to me because I’m the best person to help, NOT that I’m giving them a kickback.  

D. Protection. Most attorneys have legal malpractice insurance which is there to protect you in case there is a mistake.  I don’t know of any consultants that have legal malpractice insurance to protect you if they advise you incorrectly on the aviation regulations or the other laws that apply to this area. Furthermore, attorneys go through background checks to get barred. Consultants don’t have to get checked out.

2. Are You Planning on Flying 55 Pounds or Heavier in the United States? 

A. Limited Payload. To fly under Part 107, your drone sprayer needs to weigh under 55 pounds on take-off. It could have the capability to fly heavier, but you need to keep it under. This is an important point because you could purchase a drone sprayer capable of flying over 55 pounds but you’ll be forced to limit the amount of liquid in your tanks for the drone and liquid together to be under 55 pounds at take-off.

B. More Costs & Different Rules. The amount of effort to fly a drone sprayer weighing 55 pounds or heavier is much more considerable than just flying under Part 107 without an exemption. Keep in mind you cannot just get a remote pilot certificate and fly a 55+ drone sprayer. The pilot will need the more costly sport pilot certificate and will be operating under a completely different set of regulations than Part 107. This means your up front costs WILL be higher for flying a 55+ drone than for an under 55 drone.  This also means that if you want to scale out the drone spraying operation, you’ll need to pay for training to get the employee a sport pilot certificate or recruit people that already have this license or higher.  It might make sense for your operation to have multiple under 55 pound drone sprayers and maybe one or more 55+ drone sprayers for larger jobs.

C. Lack of Reliability Data. This is actually the worst one.  For a 55+ exemption, the FAA will ask for information on the drone sprayer, such as how many total hours have been flown on it to show engineering reliability.  This is different than manuals. Is there any supporting data that shows this type of air frame is safe? This means you’ll most likely have to obtain the drone sprayer data yourself or find someone who already has. Maybe in the future the FAA will approve other 55+ exemptions based upon someone doing the previous leg work on the same make and model of drone sprayer but I have yet to see that.

D. Registration Planning. The easy online method of registering the drone sprayer under Part 48 is for only drone sprayers that will be operated under 55 pounds. This means you’ll have to go through the headache of de-registering under Part 48 and re-registering under Part 47 which is a pain in and of itself. Proper planning would say if you plan on going 55+ with your drone sprayer, just register under Part 47 which is good for both under 55  and 55+ operations.

Conclusion

Drone sprayers provide great opportunities for certain types of operations but not all situations. To help you achieve your drone sprayer goals quickly and legally, it is best to work with someone who has familiarity with the area.

If you are planning on navigating this difficult area, contact me. I’m a commercial pilot, current FAA certificated flight instructor, aviation attorney, and professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I am currently assisting clients in these matters and HAVE successfully obtained exemption approvals for clients to do drone spraying.  I’m also familiar with the non-aviation related legal issues that are extremely important for drone sprayer operations.


Drone Sightings (2014-2018) from the FAA

Many have been talking about the FAA’s drone sightings reports. We have constantly seen in the news the reports. Others in the industry cite the drone sightings as evidence of the greater need for the government(s) to do something by creating regulations. Some counter-drone companies have used it to show a need for their product.  Regardless of where you come from in the industry and your motives, we need to accurately understand the drone sightings data.

The Government Accountability Office’s report in May 2018 accurately summed the situation up, “FAA told us that most of the reports cannot be verified because a small UAS typically is not detected by radar, the small UAS pilot is usually not identified, or the small UAS or other physical evidence is not recovered. FAA and some aviation industry stakeholders also told us that the reliability of many of the reports is questionable; FAA explained that this is because pilots can have difficulty positively identifying objects as small UAS, given their small size, their distance from the observed position, the speeds at which a manned aircraft and a UAS are operating, or the various factors competing for the pilot’s attention. ”

Update: UAS Weekly reported, “Unmanned Aircraft Safety Team (UAST) Drone Sightings Working Group released a new report on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) 3,714 drone sightings reports collected by flight crews, air traffic controllers and citizens from November 2015 to March 2017. The report found that only a small percentage of drone reports pose a safety risk, while the vast majority are simply sightings.” Report is located here. 

 

Table of Contents:

 

Quick Summary of the Drone Sightings:

  • The FAA has inaccurately reported the drone sightings data they have published.
  • There are more drone sightings in populated areas.
  • There are more drone sightings in warmer months than colder.
  • States with larger populations have more drone sightings.
  • The drone sightings over time are steadily growing.
  • Any discussions we have on this topic should be using numbers and not percentages or words.

Basically, population and weather/climate are the determining factors of when and where you’ll have drone sightings.

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Fact Checking the FAA’s Drone Sightings Data:

  • The Academy of Model Aeronautics, as well as others, have brought up the drone sightings data. The AMA has multiple reports analyzing the data which called into questions much of the data. Some of the drone sightings are law enforcement drones, balloons, or just harmless drone sightings.  Here is a striking quote from their 5/10/2017 report, “In AMA’s previous analysis, AMA found that 3.5% (August 2015) and 3.3% (March 2016) of sightings included the explicit notation of’ ‘NMAC’ (near mid-air collision) or ‘near miss.’ Our analysis of the newest 1,270 records released in February 2017 show about the same percentage of near misses in the new data. Just 3.4% of sightings in the February 2017 data contains a specific notation indicating a near miss.” Here are some of the AMA’s reports:
  • The FAA even commented on this in the small unmanned aircraft registration rule, “Some commenters specifically found fault with FAA’s reliance on increased number of UAS ‘incidents’ reported to the FAA by manned aircraft pilots. Several commenters noted that the AMA analyzed those reported ‘incidents’ and found that out of the 764 reported records, only 27 (or 3.5%) were identified as a near mid-air collision, with nearly all of those involving government-authorized military drones. The commenters noted that most of the ‘incidents’ have merely been sightings of UAS. One individual pointed out that the FAA has published no analysis of its own ‘sightings’ data; nor has it disputed the AMA’s analysis of that data. This individual also asserted that a doubling in the rate of UAS ‘sightings’ in 2015 is consistent with the rate of growth of consumer small UAS, and is not cause for overreaction.”
  • Drone Sightings Fact Check HuertaMichael Huerta, the head of the FAA, said at Interdrone in September 2107, “We’re receiving an average of about 200 drone-sighting reports from pilots each month this year.” This is not accurate. The average for the year through August was 190. Notice that Huerta mentioned the number at the tail end of the cycle. See the graph. If he would have made the statement the next month in October, the average would have been 188.6. The average would have continued to decrease for the next so many months. Why did they not use the 6 month average from October to March which was 133.5?
  • On 10/12/2017, the FAA requested information collection review from OIRA to collect information for their LAANC system. The FAA said, “Today there are an average of 250 safety reports a month, or approximately 1,500 over a six-month period, associated with a potential risk of an incident between manned aircraft and a UAS.”  The big problem with this was the average is NOT 250!  In the preceding 6 months, the total  (1,295) was LESS than 1,500 and will be LESS than 1,500 in the upcoming 6 months based on previous data trends. In other words, this information was completely wrong. The average and the 6 month total were both completely wrong.

Important Thoughts on the Drone Sightings Data:

  • The FAA has done a bad job at “cleaning” the data. What you end with is this large number that is thrown out all over the place on the news. Many think the total number is the actual number of drone near misses because they don’t really bother to look further into the data.  Many of the drone sightings are simply harmless sightings that could be lawfully flying drone individuals. The FAA’s Federal Register indicated that 14,334 COAs have already been issued for flights near airports.  The FAA gave us some big numbers without indicating how many of these “sightings” were lawful or not. They didn’t “clean” the data for lawful flights.  The May 2018 U.S. Government Accountability Office report said, “FAA also told us that some of the reports, despite the reporting pilots’ concerns, may have involved UAS operating in a safe and authorized manner.”
  • The FAA has done a very poor job on giving access to the data. One would think it was intentionally created in such a way as to not be easily searchable. Before you read my points below, compare it to the FAA’s Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing portal. Just search around a little bit and you’ll see how just in-depth and detailed the data is. You’ll also notice that it is very searchable. Just compare these two screenshots to see what I mean.

FAA’s Excel Spreadsheet of Drone Sightings

drone-sightings-excel

FAA’s Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing

FAA accident database.

  • I’ll give you some examples of why I  say the data is hard to work with (if not intentionally designed to be that way).
    • The quarters do not have consistent formats which means you have to rearrange things. You’re going to have to do copy and pasting and use the left, right, or mid extraction function a bunch. Even that doesn’t work so well because of the terms and format change.
    • A whole quarter has an apostrophe in front of EVERY date which prevents you from sorting and totaling by date unless you remove it.
    • The data in the preliminary reports are all in one chunk for each line so you have to use more advanced Excel extraction formulas to extract the text which prevents lay people from analyzing the data.
    • The dates have times included in the dates which create more problems for sorting. The time isn’t extracted to its own column. You have to use the text to column function to fix this.
  • Why in the world has the FAA NOT done something similar to this with FAA enforcement actions against drone flyers? The FAA is very secretive about the prosecutions against illegal and unsafe drone flyers. We only learned about 23 enforcement actions against drone operators after a reporter at Motherboard had to file a FOIA request and wait months to obtain the information. Since then, another reporter asked the FAA and received the total from 2014 – summer 2017.  A whopping 48 prosecutions. This was further corroborated by the U.S. GAO report which created this chart:drone-enforcement-actions-table
  • The FAA CAN create a drone enforcement database. They are already doing this with others under the FAA’s jurisdiction. See the FAA’s enforcement action reports. Compare those enforcement reports to the drone sightings data and you’ll see once again the drone sightings data is just poorly put together. enforcement-reports-drone-sightings
  • Why is it that the Academy of Model Aeronautics and I have published material on this and not the FAA? 

Graphs Created from the Drone Sightings Report:

These totals and graphs are based on data from 11/13/14 to 3/31/2018.

drone-sightings-faa-2018

 

drone-sightings-state-faa-2018

 

 

drone-sightings-city-faa-2018

 

 

 

How You Can Use the Data:

Drone Operators: If you are operating near large populations, during the day, or during warmer months, you have a greater chance of having problems with local law enforcement misidentifying you as the other reckless crazy guy flying. Additionally, if you live near a large population that has a warm climate, you have a greater chance of having more state drone laws and/or local laws being created to counter the more numerous drone sightings.

Manned Pilots:  Drones typically fly around populated areas during warm weather. Take this into account when doing safety risk management.

Cities & States: If you don’t have that much of a population, you should think twice about creating a drone law as it will impact businesses greater than it will benefit the public which is small.  Conversely, if you are a large city or heavily populated state, you should seriously consider figuring out a legal game plan for dealing with the drones.  FAA is doing its pilot program to work with local governments to create state and local drone laws. There are issues with that. See that article for more details.

Practical Suggestions for the FAA:

  • Start publishing the enforcement actions against illegal and unsafe operators.
  • Start doing more enforcement actions against the illegal and unsafe operators which are all over the internet. Yes, I know it might be hard to find SOME of the bad actors but you literally have, not fruit, but fruit gift baskets laying on the ground of people you can go after right now.
  • Change your enforcement philosophy so you aren’t so relaxed with drone operators. The common feeling in the drone community is you get one free stupid stunt and THEN the FAA might come after it you. Meanwhile, all the LAWFUL operators are losing business or having to deal with state and local regulations being created because of the FAA’s inactivity.

 

The FAA is not pro-business. Consistent inactivity hurts the drone industry and businesses.

 


Virginia Drone Laws (2018)

NOTICE: This article is for information purposes only!  This article is ONLY for state laws that are DRONE specific. Local laws and “aircraft” related laws could potentially apply and were outside of the focus of this article. It might NOT be up to date. You should seek out a competent attorney licensed in the state you are interested in before operating.

Researching? I created a page on Drone Laws (federal, state, & international) and another on only US drone laws by state.

 Current as of July 28, 2018.

§ 15.2-926.3. Local regulation of certain aircraft.

No locality political subdivision may regulate the use of a privately owned, unmanned aircraft system as defined in § 19.2-60.1 within its boundaries. Nothing in this section shall permit a person to go or enter upon land owned by a political subdivision solely because he is in possession of an unmanned aircraft system if he would not otherwise be permitted entry upon such land.

 

§ 18.2-121.3. Trespass with an unmanned aircraft system; penalty.

A. Any person who knowingly and intentionally causes an unmanned aircraft system to enter the property of another and come within 50 feet of a dwelling house (i) to coerce, intimidate, or harass another person or (ii) after having been given actual notice to desist, for any other reason, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

 

B.This section shall not apply to any person who causes an unmanned aircraft system to enter the property as set forth in subsection A if (i) consent is given to the entry by any person with legal authority to consent or by any person who is lawfully present on such property or (ii) such person is authorized by federal regulations to operate an unmanned aircraft system and is operating such system in an otherwise lawful manner and consistent with federal regulations.

 

§ 18.2-324.2. Use of unmanned aircraft system for certain purposes; penalty.

A. It is unlawful for any person who is required to register pursuant to §9.1-901 to use or operate an unmanned aircraft system to knowingly and intentionally (i) follow or contact another person without permission of such person or (ii) capture the images of another person without permission of such person when such images render the person recognizable by his face, likeness, or other distinguishing characteristic.

 

B. It is unlawful for a respondent of a protective order issued pursuant to §16.1-279.1 or 19.2-152.10 to knowingly and intentionally use or operate an unmanned aircraft system to follow, contact, or capture images of the petitioner of the protective order or any other individual named in the protective order.

 

C. A violation of this section is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

 

§ 19.2-60.1. Use of unmanned aircraft systems by public bodies; search warrant required.

A. As used in this section, unless the context requires a different meaning:

“Unmanned aircraft” means an aircraft that is operated without the possibility of human intervention from within or on the aircraft.

“Unmanned aircraft system” means an unmanned aircraft and associated elements, including communication links, sensing devices, and the components that control the unmanned aircraft.

 

B. No state or local government department, agency, or instrumentality having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement or regulatory violations, including but not limited to the Department of State Police, and no department of law enforcement as defined in § 15.2-836of any county, city, or town shall utilize an unmanned aircraft system except during the execution of a search warrant issued pursuant to this chapter or an administrative or inspection warrant issued pursuant to law.

 

C. Notwithstanding the prohibition in this section, an unmanned aircraft system may be deployed without a warrant (i) when an Amber Alert is activated pursuant to § 52-34.3, (ii) when a Senior Alert is activated pursuant to § 52-34.6, (iii) when a Blue Alert is activated pursuant to § 52-34.9, (iv) where use of an unmanned aircraft system is determined to be necessary to alleviate an immediate danger to any person, (v) for training exercises related to such uses, or (vi) if a person with legal authority consents to the warrantless search.

 

D. The warrant requirements of this section shall not apply when such systems are utilized to support the Commonwealth for purposes other than law enforcement, including damage assessment, traffic assessment, flood stage assessment, and wildfire assessment. Nothing herein shall prohibit use of unmanned aircraft systems for private, commercial, or recreational use or solely for research and development purposes by institutions of higher education and other research organizations or institutions.

 

E. Evidence obtained through the utilization of an unmanned aircraft system in violation of this section is not admissible in any criminal or civil proceeding.

 

F. In no case may a weaponized unmanned aircraft system be deployed in the Commonwealth or its use facilitated in the Commonwealth by a state or local government department, agency, or instrumentality or department of law enforcement in the Commonwealth except in operations at the Space Port and Naval/Aegis facilities at Wallops Island.

 

G. Nothing herein shall apply to the Armed Forces of the United States or the Virginia National Guard while utilizing unmanned aircraft systems during training required to maintain readiness for its federal mission or when facilitating training for other U.S. Department of Defense units.

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Section 101.43   Endangering the safety of the National Airspace System.

Section 101.43   Endangering the safety of the National Airspace System.

No person may operate model aircraft so as to endanger the safety of the national airspace system.

 

My Commentary:

Part 101 needs to be understood that it is a copy-paste of Section 336 which prohibited the FAA from creating and rule or regulation governing model aircraft. This section only makes sense since it said the FAA could do enforcement actions against those operating in an unsafe manner.

 

 


Section 101.1 – Applicability.

Back to the Drone Regulations Directory—-Next Drone Regulation 

Actual Text of  Section 101.1 Applicability.

(a) This part prescribes rules governing the operation in the United States, of the following:

(1) Except as provided for in §101.7, any balloon that is moored to the surface of the earth or an object thereon and that has a diameter of more than 6 feet or a gas capacity of more than 115 cubic feet.

(2) Except as provided for in §101.7, any kite that weighs more than 5 pounds and is intended to be flown at the end of a rope or cable.

(3) Any amateur rocket except aerial firework displays.

(4) Except as provided for in §101.7, any unmanned free balloon that—

(i) Carries a payload package that weighs more than four pounds and has a weight/size ratio of more than three ounces per square inch on any surface of the package, determined by dividing the total weight in ounces of the payload package by the area in square inches of its smallest surface;

(ii) Carries a payload package that weighs more than six pounds;

(iii) Carries a payload, of two or more packages, that weighs more than 12 pounds; or

(iv) Uses a rope or other device for suspension of the payload that requires an impact force of more than 50 pounds to separate the suspended payload from the balloon.

(5) Any model aircraft that meets the conditions specified in §101.41. For purposes of this part, a model aircraft is an unmanned aircraft that is:

(i) Capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere;

(ii) Flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and

(iii) Flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

(b) For the purposes of this part, a gyroglider attached to a vehicle on the surface of the earth is considered to be a kite.

 

My Commentary on Section 101.1 Applicability.

Pay attention that (a)(5) limits what types of model aircraft can even fall into Part 101. The big one is that it is only for hobby or recreational purposes.


Section 101.41- Applicability.

Back to the Drone Regulations Directory—-Next Drone Regulation 

Section 101.41   Applicability.

This subpart prescribes rules governing the operation of a model aircraft (or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft) that meets all of the following conditions as set forth in section 336 of Public Law 112-95:

(a) The aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use;

(b) The aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization;

(c) The aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization;

(d) The aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and

(e) When flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation.

 

FAA Commentary from the Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule

As the commenters pointed out, the statutory language of section 336 applies not just to aircraft that are operated as model aircraft but also to “aircraft being developed as a model aircraft.”55 Accordingly, the FAA has added this statutory language to the regulatory text of § 101.41. The FAA also agrees with ALPA and the Kansas State University UAS Program and has updated the title of part 101 to indicate that this part will now include model aircraft operations that are operated under section 336.


Free Part 107 Test Study Guide For FAA Remote Pilot Airmen Certificate (Updated 2018)

FAA-Part-107-study-guide

Part 107 Test Study Guide Table of Contents (Pick One)

 

I created this free Part 107 test study guide to help my clients and the drone community based upon my experience as a FAA certificated flight instructor and aviation attorney. Keep in mind that many of the courses online are taught by people who are NOT FAA certificated flight instructors. Dig in and find out if a flight instructor teaches the WHOLE course.

 

The FAA compiled a list of many references in the final airmen certification standards for the remote pilot knowledge exam and FAA created study guide.

 

Unfortunately, they did NOT include everything you need or would find helpful. Below I have included the material the FAA suggested you study along with extra items that the FAA should have included, which are in the bold text, that I added.

 

First Time Test Taker Study Guide

I want to emphasize, after you pass your test, you should be looking for quality mentorship for the long term. Being a professional is not just about passing a test. If you are looking to be mediocre, I suggest you go to another industry and do us all a favor. It should be about learning the material AND how to apply it properly in practice.  Passing the Part 107 exam is merely the key unlocking the door to begin your journey into aviation, not a certificate saying you have arrived.

To reemphasize, once you pass your test, go find a competent flight instructor who can help you apply the knowledge you will learn to real life situations so you can be profitable, legal, and safe.

 

Update: I wrote an article on the Part 107 statistics (pass/fails, applications filed, applications approved, etc.)

 

 

Disclaimer:  You aren’t guaranteed to pass the test based off this material.

 

FREE Drone Pilot License PDF Study Guide!

  • 100 + pages.
  • 41 FAA practice questions with answers.
  • 24 exclusive sample questions.
  • 6 "cram" pages.

Game Plan:

Step 1. Read all the steps.

 

Step 2. Sign up for the test. Instructions on signing up for the test getting your pilot license is here. You should pick a date based upon how much time you have in relation to how much material you need to go through. You are looking at around 538 pages of material you need to read. Yes, I know there are only 135 pages in THIS document. I reference pages in other documents below.

 

Step 3. Learn about the Airmen Certification Standards (ACS) and read over the Part 107 ACS.

 

Step 4. Start studying the material below.

 

Step 5. Once you are done or feel competent. Take the test of 40 sample questions. For your deficient areas, go over those particular areas in the ACS. All 40 questions are answered and explained in this document in the back.

 

Step 6. In the final stretch of time, study Area II and Area V from the ACS since both of those areas will make up 50-70% of the test.

 

Step 7. After you passed your test, you should be looking for quality mentorship for the long term. Being a professional is not just about passing a test. If you are looking to be mediocre, I suggest you go to another industry and do us all a favor. It should be about learning the material AND how to apply it properly in practice. Now go find a competent flight instructor who can help you apply the knowledge you learned to real life situations so you can be profitable, legal, and safe.

 

The FAA compiled a list of references in the final ACS and FAA study guide. Unfortunately, they did not include everything you need or would find helpful. Below I have included the extra items that the FAA should have included, which are in the bold text.

 

I find it interesting the FAA did not note anything about Part 830 (except for one small reference in a PLT code) or the NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS). Both of those programs are focused on safety while the FAA’s accident reporting requirement in Part 107 is focused on safety and enforcement.  A pilot needs to know both of these programs. I find it also interesting the FAA didn’t mention anything about the NASA ASRS which is there for the pilot’s benefit, not the FAA’s, regarding enforcement actions.  Let that sink in for a second. This shows the importance of why you need to have a good aviation attorney in your corner to look after you, as the FAA won’t. Read What Do I Do After I Crash My Drone?

 

The total number of regulations and pages is very large. I chopped it up into what pieces of material you should know in entirety and what you should pick pieces and parts of based upon the ACS.

 

The total test will be 60 questions and you will have 2 hours to complete it. The minimum passing score is 70% which is a maximum of 18 questions wrong or a minimum of 42 questions right.

 

If there are any errors or broken links in here, for the greater good of everyone studying, let me know so I can correct it and inform everyone.

 

Part 107 Remote Pilot Test Taking Tips:

A bunch of the questions on your test will be answered right by the legend in the supplement. You CAN refer to this while in the test. Make sure the test proctor gives you the correct one that is up to date prior to going into the test. I heard one horror story where the person had an old one so the questions didn’t match up. Make sure you have a current one!

 

 

Go with the “spirit of the question,” not the letter of the question. Try and figure out what the FAA is trying to test you on. Remember that these questions were most likely created very hastily and do not make perfect sense. When I took the test, I remember a few questions that looked like they were written by someone who was up at 2AM trying to crank out tons of questions. If you are stumped, then ask yourself, “What is the guy up at 2AM in the morning trying to test me on?”

 

Always keep in mind how the answers can answer OTHER questions. If you don’t know the answer, or eliminate the wrong ones, keep moving on. Sometimes the questions and answers further down will provide you the answers to the one you are having trouble with. When I took the test, I noticed that there were two questions that were very similar in topic. One of the questions had two really dumb answers which basically gave away the correct answer. If you knew nothing about the topic, just using common sense to eliminate the two bad answer, you could have used the correct answer to answer the first question.

 

Brain dump everything immediately onto your scrap paper when you start the test. You want to write down everything you think you will forget on the scrap piece of paper. Just dump it all out and any pictures and diagrams you have up in your head.

 

Try and answer the question BEFORE you read the answers so you don’t get tricked. The FAA likes to create answers where one is a slight “one-off” from the correct answer. By reading the answers, you can introduce doubt. For example, Federal Aviation Administration or Federal Aviation Agency? Which is it? They both seem like good answers.  Is it MSL or AGL?

 

Eliminate the wrong answers. You don’t have to find the correct answer, just the wrong ones.

 

Read the test question AND answers carefully. I cannot over emphasize this.

 

Sleep and eat well. I would just sleep 8-10 hours. Take the test around 10AM-12PM. This way you aren’t rushed and can miss rush hour traffic as you drive there. When I was in law school (3-4hour exams) and taking the Florida bar exam (2 full 8 hour days), I had to make sure my body wouldn’t go out on me. I would eat very greasy foods right before I would go in so I wouldn’t be hungry while I would take a Kombucha vitamin B shot right. Check with your doctor to make sure this is ok with you. The vitamin B would start metabolizing by the time I took the test or started answering questions.

 

Tips For While You Are Studying

You will be able to take the test with the Airman Knowledge Testing Supplement for Sport Pilot, Recreational Pilot, and Private Pilot which is a great resource. There are two reasons why you should look for this supplement and know what is in it: (1) there are helpful legends which will be great for answering sectional map questions and (2) many questions on the test will reference some of the figures in this supplement. At the end of your studying, you should skim through and ask yourself questions based on the numbered areas on the sectional charts.

 

See a term you don’t know in the ACS? Look it up in the glossary of the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PHAK) to see what the term means in a short statement. Want to learn more about the term in the ACS? Look up the term in the index of the PHAK and/or Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) which will tell you where to find more information.

 

Hit ctrl + f and type in the word to search through the PDF rapidly.

 

All of the study material below is free.

 

Reference

Title

Read Entirely

14 CFR Part 45 (Subpart A & C)Identification and Registration Marking
14 CFR part 47 Aircraft Registration
14 CFR part 48Registration and Marking Requirements for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems
14 CFR part 71Designation of Class A, B, C, D and E Airspace Areas; Air Traffic Service Routes; and Reporting Points
14 CFR part 73 [this should have been in there]SPECIAL USE AIRSPACE (Restricted and Prohibited Airspace).
14 CFR Part 91 Sections Referenced in Part 107.Sections:

·         91.17 Alcohol or Drugs

·         91.19 Carriage of narcotic drugs, marihuana, and depressant or stimulant drugs or substances.

·         91.137 Temporary flight restrictions in the vicinity of disaster/hazard areas.

·         91.138 Temporary flight restrictions in national disaster areas in the State of Hawaii.

·         91.139 Emergency air traffic rules.

·         91.141 Flight restrictions in the proximity of the Presidential and other parties.

·         91.143 Flight limitation in the proximity of space flight operations.

·         91.144   Temporary restriction on flight operations during abnormally high barometric pressure conditions.

·         91.145 Management of aircraft operations in the vicinity of aerial demonstrations and major sporting events.

·         91.203(a)(2) Civil aircraft: Certifications required.

14 CFR 99.7§ 99.7 Special security instructions.
14 CFR Part 101 Subpart ESubpart E—Special Rule for Model Aircraft
14 CFR Part 107Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems
49 CFR Part 830Notification And Reporting Of Aircraft Accidents Or Incidents And Overdue Aircraft, And Preservation Of Aircraft Wreckage, Mail, Cargo, And Records
SAFO 15010 (2 Pages)Carriage of Spare Lithium Batteries in Carry-on and Checked Baggage
SAFO 10015 (1 Page and 23 minute video)Flying in the wire environment
SAFO 10017 (3 Pages)Risks in Transporting Lithium Batteries in Cargo by Aircraft
SAFO 09013 (1 Page and a 10.5 minute Video)Fighting Fires Caused By Lithium Type Batteries in Portable Electronic Devices
AC 150/5200-32 (11 Pages)Reporting Wildlife Aircraft Strikes
AC 107-2  (53 Pages)Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS)
FAA-S-ACS-10 (33 Pages)Remote Pilot – Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airman Certification Standards
FAA-G-8082-22 (87 Pages)Remote Pilot – Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Study Guide
FAA-G-8082-20 (17 Pages)Remote Pilot Knowledge Test Guide

Articles I wrote that will help you understand some of the areas you need to know for the test. (12 webpages total)

·         Part 107 (ACS) Airmen Certification Standards Explained (2 pages)

·         Part 107 Knowledge Test (41 Questions Answered & Explained) (4 pages)

·         TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction) (1 page)

·         What Type of Criminal Punishment (Prison Time) or Fines can Result for a TFR Violation? (1 page)

·         8 Different TFRs – Flight Restrictions for Good Reason (1 page)

·         FAA Part 107 Waiver (COA) – What Drone Pilots Need to Know (1 page)

·         What Do I Do After I Crash My Drone? (1 page)

·         How to Fly Your Drone at Night-(Part 107 Night Waiver from 107.29)

·         More Part 107 Test Questions for Remote Pilot Knowledge Test (22 Super Hard Practice Questions)

Things you should NOT Read in Entirety but ONLY the relevant sections I list or ctrl +f the term in the document for the relevant sections. (The AC00-06, AIM, RMH, PHAK points came from the Knowledge Test Guide Pages 12-16)

Aeronautical Chart User’s GuideAeronautical Chart User’s Guide (21 pages)

·         Pages 13-44

AC 00-6  (200 Pages)Aviation Weather  (42 Pages)

·         Thunderstorms (19-1 through 19-11)  (11 Pages)

·         Winds / Currents (Chapter 7 – 6 pages) (Chapter 9 – 9 pages) (Chapter 10 – 9 pages).

·         Density Altitude (Sections 5.3 through 5.5 – 6 pages).

·         Effects – Temperature (Pages 5-10 through 5-12 already covered)

·         Effects – Frost Formation (Section 22-4  – 1 page)

·         Effects – Air Masses and Fronts (Section 10-1 through 10-8  – already covered)

AC 00-45 – Aviation Weather ServicesAviation Weather Services (17 pages)

·         Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts (TAF) (Pages 5-75 through 5-92 – 17 pages)

·         Thunderstorms

AIM Aeronautical Information Manual (54 pages)

·         General Airspace (3-1-1 through 3-5-10  – 26 pages)

·         Authorization for Certain Airspace

·         Airport Operations (4-3-1 through 4-3-4  –  4 pages)

·         Aeronautical Charts (9-1-1 through 9-1-4 Don’t read past Caribbean VFR aeronautical charts.  – 3 pages)

·         Radio Communications – Non-towered & Towered  (4-2-1 through  4-2-8  6 pages)

·         Traffic Patterns

·         Traffic Advisory Services

·         Phonetic Alphabet

·         Scanning / See and Avoid  (4−4−14 & 8−1−6   –  4 pages)

·         NOTAMs (5−1−3  –  6 pages)

·         Temporary Flight Restrictions (3−5−3 Overlap)

·         Hyperventilation (8−1−3  – 1 page)

·         MOA (3−4−5  Overlap)

·         Sources – Weather Briefings / Sources (7−1−2   –  1 page)

·         Prescription and OTC Medications  (8−1−2   –  3 pages)

FAA-H-8083-2Risk Management Handbook

·         Situational Awareness (2 pages)

FAA-H-8083-25Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (77 Pages)

·         Loading/Performance –  Balance, Stability, Center of Gravity (Pages 5-33 through 5-43  – 11 pages)

·         Aeronautical Decision Making – Crew Resource Management (Pages 2-4 through 2-32  29 Pages)

·         Aviation Routine Weather Reports (METAR) (13-6 through 13-8  – 3 pages)

·         Military Training Routes

·         Other Airspace Areas (15-4 through 15-7 – 4 Pages)

·         Reading a Chart

·         Aeronautical Charts (14-3, 16-2 through 16-7 – 7 pages)

·         Informational Sources (1-9 through 1-12  4 pages)

·         Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts (TAF) (13-9 – 1 page)

·         Hazardous Attitude (Page 2-4  through 2-6    –    4 Pages)

·         Crew Resource Management  (G-8  – 1 page)

·         Situational Awareness  (2-22  1 page)

·         Effective Scanning  (17-23   1 page)

·         Drugs and Alcohol  (17-15 through 17-18   – 4 pages)

·         Effects – Atmospheric Stability and Pressure   (12-12  through 12-17  – 6 pages)

·         Effects – Temperature

·         Weather Briefings / Sources  (13-5  1 page)

·         Prescription and OTC Medications

FAA-CT-8080-2HAirman Knowledge Testing Supplement for Sport Pilot, Recreational Pilot, and Private Pilot

·         Know how to use the two legends. Pages 1-19. This supplement will be provided to you when you take the test. If they do not, ask for it. Read Page 7 of this FAA document for proof.

·         Know all the terms in Figure 1. (Look these terms up in the PHAK)

·         Figure 2 – Know how to use.

·         Figure 12- Decode these and study them. You should know how to read these for the real world, not just memorize these so you can pass the test.

·         Figure 13 – You should read over this and know what information is important for you as a drone pilot and what is not.

·         Figure 15 – This is important to know so you can plan operations.

·         Figure 55 – Picture 3 and 7.  This is how pilots dance at parties. After the party, if you ever have a flag and you need to hide it so it doesn’t get stolen at an airport, a great place to hide it is under the tail of an airplane. See Picture 4.

·         Study Figure 20-26, 59, 69-71, 74-76, 78, 80

·         Decode 31, 52, 63, 77, 79, 81,

Recurrent Knowledge Test Study Guide

Game Plan:

Step 1. Read all the steps. Understand this is for the recurrent exam, NOT the initial exam. That is another study guide on my website.

 

Step 2. Figure out when you need to take the test by. See the section below talking about when aeronautical knowledge currency expires.

 

Step 3. Sign up for the test. Instructions on signing up for the test is here. You should pick a date based upon how much time you have in relation to how much material you need to go through. You are looking at around 335 pages of material you need to read. Yes, I know there are only 138 pages in THIS document. I reference pages in other documents below.

 

Step 4. Learn about the Airmen Certification Standards (ACS) and read over the Part 107 ACS.

 

Step 5. Start studying the material below based upon what was listed in the ACS regarding the recurrent knowledge exam.

 

Step 6. Once you are done or feel competent. Take the test of 40 sample questions. For your deficient areas, go over those particular areas in the ACS. All 40 questions are answered and explained in this document in the back. Keep in mind that some of those questions are on things that won’t be on the recurrent exam such as weather. You might want to skip those questions or take a crack at it to see if your knowledge is still good.

 

Step 7. In the final stretch of time, study Area I (the regulations) and Area II (airspace & chart reading) from the ACS since both of those areas will make up 60-80% of the test. Maybe go through the 107 regulations paid video course at Rupprecht Drones with 100+ questions?

 

The FAA compiled a list of references in the final ACS and FAA study guide. Unfortunately, they did not include everything you need or would find helpful. Below I have included the extra items that the FAA should have included, which are in the bold text.

 

I find it interesting the FAA did not note anything about Part 830 (except for one small reference in a PLT code) or the NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS). Both of those programs are focused on safety while the FAA’s accident reporting requirement in Part 107 is focused on safety and enforcement.  A pilot needs to know both of these programs. I find it also interesting the FAA didn’t mention anything about the NASA ASRS which is there for the pilot’s benefit, not the FAA’s, regarding enforcement actions.  Let that sink in for a second. This shows the importance of why you need to have a good aviation attorney in your corner to look after you, as the FAA won’t. Read What Do I Do After I Crash My Drone?

 

The total number of regulations and pages is very large. I chopped it up into what pieces of material you should know in entirety and what you should pick pieces and parts of based upon the ACS.

 

The recurrent knowledge exam will be 40 questions and you will have 1.5 hours to complete it. The minimum passing score is 70% which is a maximum of 12 questions wrong or a minimum of 28 questions right.

 

If there are any errors or broken links in here, for the greater good of everyone studying, let me know so I can correct it.

 

 

Currency (Every 24 Months You Have to Prove Your Aeronautical Knowledge)

Section 107.65 says, a “person may not operate a small unmanned aircraft system unless that person has completed one of the following, within the previous 24 calendar months:

(a) Passed an initial aeronautical knowledge test covering the areas of knowledge specified in §107.73(a);

(b) Passed a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test covering the areas of knowledge specified in §107.73(b); or

(c) If a person holds a pilot certificate (other than a student pilot certificate) issued under part 61 of this chapter and meets the flight review requirements specified in §61.56, passed either an initial or recurrent training course covering the areas of knowledge specified in §107.74(a) or (b) in a manner acceptable to the Administrator.”

You need 1 of the following within the previous 24 calendar months to operate under Part 107; however, if you don’t meet this, you are grounded from flying under Part 107 but you still could fly recreationally under Part 101.

 

Does your remote pilot certificate expire?

No, you don’t lose your remote pilot certificate. It really shouldn’t be termed recertification as you are NOT getting a certificate again or having to worry about losing the certificate. You just cannot exercise the privileges of the remote pilot certificate.

Everyone typically gets confused by what I just said. I’ll give you some examples.

  • Bob passes an initial aeronautical knowledge test on September 15, 2016 and received his remote pilot certificate. This means Bob needs to do (a),(b), or (c) no later than September 30, 2018. Otherwise, he’ll have to stop flying under Part 107 until he does (a), (b), or (c).
  • Tony passed the exam with Bob on September 15, 2016.   He received his remote pilot certificate. He did not take the recurrent exam until October 10, 2018 and passed in the afternoon at 1:34PM. Tony could not fly from October 1-10 up till he passed the test around 1:33-34PM. Once he passed, he was good to go for another 24 months (October 31st, 2020 @ 11:59 PM).
  • Sam, who also passed with Bob and Tony on September 15, 2016, received his remote pilot certificate but didn’t really do much drone flying because of life circumstances. He managed to pass the recurrent knowledge exam on December 14, 2019. He is good until December 31st, 2021.

Important point.  Please note that when calculating recency, you are going off of when you did (a), (b), or (c) above, NOT when you received your remote pilot certificate or what is dated on your certificate.

 

I lost my knowledge test report. How do I figure when my currency expires?

Well, you won’t find the answer on IACRA, your remote pilot certificate, or the FAA airmen registry.  Here are some solutions:

  • Dig into your emails to see if your have a test payment or schedule confirmation with some date attached. You might want to try this email ([email protected]) if you went with CATS.
  • Another thing to do is look into your calendar and see if you put it in there.
  • If the date is fuzzy, try to at least figure out the month you took it in. Currency runs out on the last day of that month 24 months later.
  • Maybe call CATS or Lasergrade customer support and ask them when you took your previous test and while you are on the phone just book the recurrent exam.

 

How do I check if someone else is current?

You would think the FAA would have just put expiration dates on the remote pilot certificates like they do with my flight instructor certificate but no. If you search the FAA airmen registry, you’ll just see date of issue but not when currency expires.

If you are checking a person’s currency (like if you are hiring a person or if you are a police officer stopping a drone flyer) you need to ask them for:

  • Method 1: their remote pilot certificate AND initial or recurrent knowledge exam test report or
  • Method 2: their Part 61 pilot certificate (but not student pilot certificate), how they meet the flight review requirements of 61.56, AND their initial or recurrent online training course certificate.

You find the date in method 1 or 2. You add two years and then find the last day of the month. It is important to know this as there might be some scam artists out there trying to save $150 by not taking a knowledge exam and hoping people don’t check.

 

Dude are you saying I should bring along my knowledge exam with my remote pilot certificate with me when I fly?

Well, it is a good idea in case that someone you are dealing with also read my article and wondering if you really are current.

 

Now you might have noticed that you can take the initial or recurrent knowledge exams. The initial knowledge test is 60 questions over 2 hours while recurrent is 40 questions over 1.5 hours. They both require a passing score of 70% and will cost $150 to take.

 

Helpful Comparison Tables

Here is a table I created for the online video training course on Part 107 being sold over at Rupprecht Drones.

initial versus recurrent remote pilot (aka drone license) test

The percentages of questions on topics have changed also.

Let’s dive into the three areas to see what is covered.  All of Area I (Regulations) and Area II (Airspace & Requirements) are on the recurrent exam. Nothing from Area III (Weather) or Area IV (Loading & Performance) is on the exam.

Area V (Operations) is mixed.

A. Radio Communications ProceduresNOT on Test
B. Airport OperationsOn Test
C. Emergency ProceduresOn Test
D. Aeronautical Decision-MakingOn Test
E. PhysiologyNOT on Test
F. Maintenance and Inspection ProceduresOn Test

Tips For While You Are Studying

  • You will be able to take the test with the Airman Knowledge Testing Supplement for Sport Pilot, Recreational Pilot, and Private Pilot which is a great resource. The test center should provide you a copy. You can’t bring your own. There are two reasons why you should look over this supplement and know what is in it: (1) there are helpful legends which will be great for answering sectional map questions and (2) many questions on the test will reference some of the figures in this supplement. At the end of your studying you should skim through and ask yourself questions based upon the numbered areas on the sectional charts.
  • See a term you don’t know in the ACS? Look up the term in the index of the PHAK and/or Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) which will tell you where to find more information.
  • Hit ctrl + f and type in the word to search through the PDF rapidly.

 

 

 

TEST TAKING TIPS

  • USE THE SUPPLEMENT LEGEND! A bunch of the questions on your test will be answered right by the legend in the supplement. You CAN refer to this while in the test. Make sure the test proctor gives you the correct one that is up to date prior to going into the test. I heard of one horror story where the person had an old one so the questions didn’t match up. Make sure you have a current one!
  • Go with the “spirit of the question,” not the letter of the question. Try and figure out what the FAA is trying to test you on. When I took the test, I remember a few questions that looked like they were written by someone who was up at 2AM trying to crank out tons of questions. If you are stumped, then ask yourself, “What is the guy up at 2AM in the morning trying to test me on?”
  • Always keep in mind how the answers can answer OTHER questions. If you don’t know the answer, or eliminate the wrong ones, keep moving on. Sometimes the questions and answers further down will provide you the answers to the one you are having trouble with. When I took the test, I noticed that there were two questions that were very similar in topic. One of the questions had two really dumb answers which basically gave away the correct answer. If you knew nothing about the topic, just using common sense to eliminate the two bad answer, you could have used the correct answer to answer the first question.
  • Brain dump everything immediately onto your scrap paper when you start the test. You want to write down everything you think you will forget on the scrap piece of paper. Just dump it all out and any pictures and diagrams you have up in your head.
  • Try and answer the question BEFORE you read the answers so you don’t get tricked. The FAA likes to create answers where one is a slight “one-off” from the correct answer. By reading the answers, you can introduce doubt. For example, Federal Aviation Administration or Federal Aviation Agency? Which is it? They both seem like good answers.  Is it MSL or AGL?
  • Eliminate the wrong answers. You don’t have to always find the correct answer, just the wrong ones.
  • Read the test question AND answers carefully. I cannot over emphasize this.
  • Sleep and eat well. I would just sleep 8-10 hours. Take the test around 10AM-12PM. This way you aren’t rushed and can miss rush hour traffic as you drive there.

 

Disclaimer:  You aren’t guaranteed to pass the test based off this material.

 

 

Having Trouble Learning the Material?

I’ve been creating online training courses for the sister company Rupprecht Drones.

All the material you need to pass the remote pilot knowledge exam is in this document. Some people want to learn quicker or don’t have to read so I created online courses to meet their needs that are on Rupprecht Drones. I’m planning on creating many more online courses to help individuals quickly learn the material for the remote pilot knowledge exam so frequently check in. These courses also are great for company training and recurrent training to keep the pilots and crew proficient. The courses on Rupprecht Drones are:

Part 107 Regulations Online Training Course (test prep, waiver compliance, recurrent training, etc.)  40 videos and 35 quizzes totaling to over 100 questions for the entire course!

Night Operations Online Training Course for the Night Waiver. This is the training needed to fly under the Part 107-night waiver. It consists of 8 videos and 8 quizzes. If you pass it, you print out the certificate and keep it for your records in case the FAA audits you.

 

Reference

Title

Articles I wrote that will help you understand some of the areas you need to know for the test. (12 webpages total)
·         Part 107 (ACS) Airmen Certification Standards Explained (2 pages)

·         Part 107 Knowledge Test (41 Questions Answered & Explained) (4 pages)

·         TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction) (1 page)

·         What Type of Criminal Punishment (Prison Time) or Fines can Result for a TFR Violation? (1 page)

·         8 Different TFRs – Flight Restrictions for Good Reason (1 page)

·         FAA Part 107 Waiver (COA) – What Drone Pilots Need to Know (1 page)

·         What Do I Do After I Crash My Drone? (1 page)

·         How to Fly Your Drone at Night-(Part 107 Night Waiver from 107.29)

·         More Part 107 Test Questions for Remote Pilot Knowledge Test (22 Super Hard Practice Questions)

Area I (Regulations)- Read Entirely

14 CFR Part 45 (Subpart A & C)Identification and Registration Marking
14 CFR part 47 Aircraft Registration
14 CFR part 48Registration and Marking Requirements for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems
14 CFR part 71Designation of Class A, B, C, D and E Airspace Areas; Air Traffic Service Routes; and Reporting Points
14 CFR part 73 [this should have been in there]SPECIAL USE AIRSPACE (Restricted and Prohibited Airspace).
14 CFR Part 91 Sections Referenced in Part 107.Sections:

·         91.17 Alcohol or Drugs

·         91.19 Carriage of narcotic drugs, marihuana, and depressant or stimulant drugs or substances.

·         91.137 Temporary flight restrictions in the vicinity of disaster/hazard areas.

·         91.138 Temporary flight restrictions in national disaster areas in the State of Hawaii.

·         91.139 Emergency air traffic rules.

·         91.141 Flight restrictions in the proximity of the Presidential and other parties.

·         91.143 Flight limitation in the proximity of space flight operations.

·         91.144   Temporary restriction on flight operations during abnormally high barometric pressure conditions.

·         91.145 Management of aircraft operations in the vicinity of aerial demonstrations and major sporting events.

·         91.203(a)(2) Civil aircraft: Certifications required.

14 CFR 99.7§ 99.7 Special security instructions.
14 CFR Part 101 Subpart ESubpart E—Special Rule for Model Aircraft
14 CFR Part 107Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems
49 CFR Part 830Notification And Reporting Of Aircraft Accidents Or Incidents And Overdue Aircraft, And Preservation Of Aircraft Wreckage, Mail, Cargo, And Records

Area II. (Airspace Classification and Operating Requirements) & Area V (Operations)

Aeronautical Chart User’s GuideAeronautical Chart User’s Guide (21 pages)

Pages 13-44

SAFO 15010 (2 Pages)Carriage of Spare Lithium Batteries in Carry-on and Checked Baggage
SAFO 10015 (1 Page and 23 minute video)Flying in the wire environment
SAFO 10017 (3 Pages)Risks in Transporting Lithium Batteries in Cargo by Aircraft
SAFO 09013 (1 Page and a 10.5 minute Video)Fighting Fires Caused By Lithium Type Batteries in Portable Electronic Devices
AC 150/5200-32 (11 Pages)Reporting Wildlife Aircraft Strikes
AC 107-2  (53 Pages)Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS)
FAA-S-ACS-10 (33 Pages)Remote Pilot – Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airman Certification Standards
FAA-G-8082-22 (87 Pages)Remote Pilot – Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Study Guide
FAA-G-8082-20 (17 Pages)Remote Pilot Knowledge Test Guide

Things you should NOT Read in Entirety but ONLY the relevant sections I list or ctrl +f the term in the document for the relevant sections. (The AC00-06, AIM, RMH, PHAK points came from the Knowledge Test Guide Pages 12-16)

AIM Aeronautical Information Manual

·         General Airspace (3-1-1 through 3-5-10  – 26 pages)

·         Authorization for Certain Airspace

·         Airport Operations (4-3-1 through 4-3-4  –  4 pages)

·         Aeronautical Charts (9-1-1 through 9-1-4 Don’t read past Caribbean VFR aeronautical charts.  – 3 pages)

·         Traffic Patterns

·         Scanning / See and Avoid  (4−4−14 & 8−1−6   –  4 pages)

·         NOTAMs (5−1−3  –  6 pages)

·         Temporary Flight Restrictions (3−5−3 Overlap)

·         MOA (3−4−5  Overlap)

FAA-H-8083-2Risk Management Handbook

·         Situational Awareness (2 pages)

FAA-H-8083-25Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge

·         Aeronautical Decision Making – Crew Resource Management (Pages 2-4 through 2-32  29 Pages)

·         Military Training Routes

·         Other Airspace Areas (15-4 through 15-7 – 4 Pages)

·         Reading a Chart

·         Aeronautical Charts (14-3, 16-2 through 16-7 – 7 pages)

·         Informational Sources (1-9 through 1-12  4 pages)

·         Hazardous Attitude (Page 2-4  through 2-6    –    4 Pages)

·         Crew Resource Management  (G-8  – 1 page)

·         Situational Awareness  (2-22  1 page)

·         Effective Scanning  (17-23   1 page)

FAA-CT-8080-2HAirman Knowledge Testing Supplement for Sport Pilot, Recreational Pilot, and Private Pilot

·         Know how to use the two legends. Pages 1-19. This supplement will be provided to you when you take the test. If they do not, ask for it. Read Page 7 of this FAA document for proof.

·         Know all the terms in Figure 1. (Look these terms up in the PHAK)

·         Figure 2 – Know how to use.

·         Figure 12- Decode these and study them. You should know how to read these for the real world, not just memorize these so you can pass the test.

·         Figure 13 – You should read over this and know what information is important for you as a drone pilot and what is not.

·         Figure 15 – This is important to know so you can plan operations.

·         Figure 55 – Picture 3 and 7.  This is how pilots dance at parties. After the party, if you ever have a flag and you need to hide it so it doesn’t get stolen at an airport, a great place to hide it is under the tail of an airplane. See Picture 4.

·         Study Figure 20-26, 59, 69-71, 74-76, 78, 80

·         Decode 31, 52, 63, 77, 79, 81,

 

This is Part of a Part 107 Series of Articles.


Ultimate Guide to the Drone License So You Can Make Money

Drone License Guide Table of Contents

 

Are you interested in obtaining your “drone license” so you can make some money or fly for your job?” If so, you are in the right place.

 

This page is the ultimate guide to obtaining your drone license which has been called all sorts of things such as a remote pilot certificate, commercial drone license, drone pilot license, etc. The correct term is a remote pilot certificate, but throughout this article, I will be referring to the remote pilot certificate and drone license interchangeably. While some call it a “commercial” drone license, you do NOT need to be commercially flying to fly under Part 107. It allows all types of operations: commercial, recreational, or government.

 

This guide is based upon my knowledge as a current FAA certificated flight instructor (CFI & CFII) and aviation attorney.

 

Background on the Drone License (a.k.a. The Commercial Drone License)

Drones have been flown for years but the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”)  really didn’t start doing much till around 2005. The FAA then published the infamous 2007 policy statement which declared “that people and companies other than modelers  might be flying UAS with the mistaken understanding that they are  legally operating under the authority of [Advisory Circular] 91-57. AC 91-57 only  applies to modelers, and thus specifically excludes its use by persons  or companies for business purposes.”

 

This essentially made legal commercial drone flying financially unreasonable because you would have to comply with all the Federal Aviation Regulations…..the ones built for manned aircraft….which would be extremely expensive. The drone industry needed something better.

 

The FAA eventually gave us some hope in September of 2014 by granting a small batch of Section 333 exemptions. These exemptions at least made it some what workable to do commercial drone flying but were still plagued with the requirement to have a sport pilot license which could cost $$$ to obtain and the requirement to stay at least 500ft away from property you don’t own and people not participating in your operation. People cried out “O can’t we just have a commercial drone license as this manned aircraft license requirement is stupid!”  Something needed to change.

 

The FAA had been working on some commercial drone regulations since 2009 but didn’t make it a priority. Eventually in 2015 a notice of proposed rule making was published and on August 29, 2016, Part 107 became law.

 

Part 107 explains how to obtain a drone license, the requirements of the drone license, and how you would exercise the privileges of this license.

 

FREE Drone Pilot License PDF Study Guide!

  • 100 + pages.
  • 41 FAA practice questions with answers.
  • 24 exclusive sample questions.
  • 6 "cram" pages.

II. General FAQ’s Surrounding the “Drone License”

1.Why do you use the term “drone license” in the title of one of your blog posts when the correct term is remote pilot certificate?

I know the correct term is remote pilot certificate; however, when writing a blog post, it is important to write a title that would be understood by new individuals.  If you were new to this area, what would you type in Google?  Drone license or remote pilot certificate? A simple search on search volume shows that “drone license” is more than twice the volume of “remote pilot certificate.” I wrote the articles for first-time pilots, not existing pilots who know how to speak “aviationese.” I also wrote the article to rank high in Google so high-quality information could be found on the drone license.

 

2. Do I Need a Pilot License’s to Fly a Drone Commercially?

Yes, but it is NOT one of the expensive manned aircraft pilot licenses most people think about. You only need the Part 107 remote pilot certificate (also known as a “commercial drone license”) to operate your drone commercially. This drone license allows you to fly your drone for profit. Keep in mind that you are not limited to profit making flights. You can fly recreationally under Part 107 or as a government employee (police, fire, etc.).

 

3. Does My Business Have to Obtain a Drone License to Use Drones?

No, only individuals can obtain the drone license. However, businesses can obtain waivers or authorizations and allow their remote pilots to fly under those. There must be a remote pilot in command for each non-recreational flight and they must possess a current drone license.

 

4. Why Is It Called a Remote Pilot Certificate and Not a Drone Pilot License?

The term “pilot license” is what is used commonly to describe FAA airmen certificates. The FAA certificates aircraft, mechanics, airmen, remote pilots, etc., they don’t license.  For non-recreational drone operators, the proper term is a remote pilot certificate. These certificates are being issued with a small unmanned aircraft rating which means the pilot could only operate a drone that is under 55 pounds. I foresee the FAA adding ratings onto the remote pilot certificate for certain types of operations such as over 55-pound operations, night, beyond visual line of sight, etc.

 

5. What Happens If I Fly the Drone Commercially Without a Drone License?

You could get fined for each regulation you are violating under Part 107. The FAA has been prosecuting drone operators. The previous fine per violation was $1,100, but it has recently gone up to $1,414 per violation. You could be violating multiple regulations per flight. If you land and then take off again, that is 2x the number of fines since you are breaking the same regulations again on the second flight. Now you understand why Skypan ended up with a $1.9 million aggregate fine. They later however settled with the FAA for $200,000.

 

6. How Can I Obtain the Drone License?

You have two ways to obtain your drone license:

(1) Pass the remote pilot initial knowledge exam, submit the information onto IACRA,  pass the TSA background check, & receive your remote pilot certificate electronically; or

(2) If you are a current manned aircraft pilot, take the free online training course from the FAA, submit your application on IACRA, receive your remote pilot certificate electronically.

Each method for obtaining the drone license has different steps from the other. Keep reading below for super detailed step-by-step instructions for EACH of these methods.

 

commercial drone pilot license7. I’m Brand New. What are the Steps to Obtaining a the Drone License?

You’ll have to take the remote pilot initial knowledge exam at a knowledge testing center. Note: if you took a test on the FAA’s website and received a certificate like what is on the right, this is NOT a Part 107 initial knowledge test for new pilots. The certificate to the right is from the online training course which is only for current manned aircraft pilots transitioning over to drones. A non-manned aircraft pilot cannot use this method to obtain the drone license.

 

8. Who Can Take the Part 107 Remote Pilot Exam?

To obtain your drone license you must:

  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English (exceptions may be made if the person is unable to meet one of these requirements for a medical reason, such as hearing impairment)
  • Be in a physical and mental condition to safely operate a small UAS
  • Pass the initial aeronautical knowledge exam at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center

 

9. What if I Have a Manned Aircraft Pilot Certificate Already?

You still have to obtain the remote pilot certificate (“drone license”). If you have a current biannual flight review and a manned pilot certificate, other than a student pilot certificate, your instructions are located here on how to obtain it.

 

 10. Is it Harder to Obtain the Drone License than a Manned Pilot License? 

Any of the manned aircraft pilot licenses require actual flight experience while the remote pilot certificate a.k.a. “drone license” does not have any requirement for the person to have any flight experience.

 

In my article on the statistics surrounding those obtaining their drone license,  those taking their remote pilot knowledge exam had a passage rate of 88.29%  and those taking the private pilot knowledge exam had a passage rate of 89.44% for 2015. Another interesting thing was that the majority of those obtaining their drone license early on were those with manned aircraft pilot licenses. They had the ability to take a free online training course and then apply on IACRA to obtain their drone license. They had to do very little studying to pass the free online training course which explains why the high rates.

 

II. New Pilot Step-by-Step Guide to Obtain the Drone License.

 

To prevent any problems with obtaining the drone license, do these steps in the exact order of how they appear in this list:

    1. Figure out how far you need to schedule the test.
      • Take an honest inventory of the hours you have PER DAY to study for the test.
      • Multiply the hours by 5. (You are most likely going have things that pop up during the week and you’ll need a day to rest.)
      • Now you have an idea of how many hours per week you can dedicate to studying.
      • The free study guide I created has a total of 538 pages to read. 538 pages x 2 minutes = 1,076 minutes of reading (17.93 hours). Keep in mind you are not a robot so you are going to have to go back over and study certain areas to retain the information. If you can set aside 5 hours a week to study, in roughly 3.5 weeks you could have completed all of the reading. I would add on 2 additional weeks for extra studying after you have completed all of the reading to go over the areas that you are having a hard time understanding.
    2. Immediately schedule a time to take the FAA Part 107 knowledge test at one of the testing sites. There are only two companies that offer the Part 107 exam: CATS and PSI/Lasergrade.
      • Figure out which test site you want to take the test at. There are currently 696 of these centers around the world. Both PSI/Laser Grade and CATS do a $10 off discount for current AOPA members. If you want to become a current AOPA student member, you can sign up here. 
      • Find out the site ID so you know who to call. LAS = PSI/ Laser Grade  ABS = CATS
      • Test option 1: CATS is registering and taking appointments for the test!
        • CATS – call and get an appointment for a date.
          • This is their main testing number. Call 1-800-947-4228 and press 3. Monday through Friday
            5:30 AM PST to 5:00 PM PST Saturday & Sunday
            7:00 AM PST to 3:30 PM PST
      • Test option 2: PSI/Lasergrade(August 13) Is also registering people for the Part 107 initial knowledge exam
        •  Call 1-800-211-2754 or  1-800-733-9267 to register for your test.
    3. Start studying for the test. I created free 100+ page Part 107 test study guide. The study guide has the material the FAA suggested you study, but I added essential material they left out. It also comes with 41 sample Part 107 exam questions that are answered and explained. Think of it as your “personal trainer” for Part 107 to get you into a lean mean testing machine. You can read the Part 107 test study guide online or you can sign up for the free drone law newsletter and be able to download the PDF to study on the go. Keep in mind the study guide was for initial test takers. Recurrent test takers should study different based upon the percentages below.drone-license-test-subject-percentages

 

  1. Now that you know what the rules are, make a business plan for operations under Part 107 once you obtain the drone license. Go back and skim over the Part 107 Summary and read about Part 107 waivers (COAs). You might want to branch out into non-107 types of operations.
  2. Once you have figured out what types of industries and operations you plan on doing, you should spend this time:
    • Building or updating your website.
    • Buying the aircraft or practicing flying your current aircraft.
    • Obtaining drone insurance for the aircraft that will perform the operations.
    • Finding an attorney for each of the particular areas of law listed below. You may not need the lawyer right away but you have time to calmly make decisions now as opposed to rapidly making decisions in the future when your business is growing. You won’t have time in the future as you do now. Put their numbers in your phone. Ideally, you should have a retainer/ billing relationship set up to get answers rapidly.
      • Business / tax – (Preferably both)
      • Aviation
      • Criminal – (in case you get arrested because of some drone ordinance you stumbled upon).
  1. Take and pass the Part 107 knowledge test.
  2. Complete FAA Form 8710-13:
    1. By filling out the paper-based version of FAA Form 8710-13 and mailing it off  OR  
    2. Online for a remote pilot certificate (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application) using the electronic FAA Integrated Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application system (IACRA).
        • Login to IACRA with your username and password. If you don’t remember them, follow the “Forgot Username or Password” link.
        • Applicant Console
          • From the Applicant Console, you can start new applications and view any existing applications. Click Start New Application
          • Select ‘Pilot’ from the Application Type drop-down list. This will now show the different types of pilot certificates IACRA has available.
          • Click on Remote Pilot. Starting a Remote Pilot Application
        • The Application Process page will open, and the Personal Information section will be open. This section will be prepopulated with the information you entered when you registered. If no changes are needed, click the green Save & Continue button at the bottom of this section.
        • The Supplementary Data section will open. Answer the English Language and Drug Conviction questions. If you would like to add comments to your application, you can do so here. Click Save & Continue.
        • The Basis of Issuance section will open.
          • Enter all the information related to your photo ID. A US passport or US driver’s license is preferred.
          • Enter the knowledge test ID in the Search box. PLEASE NOTE: It can take up to 72 hours after you take your knowledge test before it is available in IACRA. When you find the test, click the green Associate Test button. Now click Save & Continue.
        • The Review and Submit section will open.
          • Answer the Denied Certificate question.
          • Summary information info will be displayed.
          • You must view the Pilots Bill of Rights, Privacy Act and Review your application before you can continue.
        • Sign and Complete
          • You should now sign the Pilots Bill of Rights Acknowledgement form.
          • Sign and complete your application.
          • Your application is now complete and will be automatically sent to the Airman Registry.
          • After 2-4 days, your temporary certificate will be available in IACRA. You will also receive an email reminder.
          • Your permanent certificate (“drone license”) will arrive by mail.

III. New Pilot FAQ About the Drone License

1. If I pass this Part 107 remote pilot exam, can I charge for the flight?

Yes, provided you fly within the requirements of Part 107 and have your drone license.

 

2. Do model aircraft individuals have to get a 107 exam?

No, Section 107.1 says Part 107 does not apply to “Any aircraft subject to the provisions of part 101 of this chapter[.]” Part 101 is the section for model aircraft. You are going to have to meet the criteria of Part 101 or you will be forced to fly under Part 107. One area that has not been fully clarified is whether FPV racing will be allowed to fly under Part 101 since FPV racing does not fully comply with the FAA’s 2014 Model Aircraft Interpretation which said FPV could not be used to see and avoid other aircraft. The preamble to Part 107 in Pages 73-77 said they will issue a final interpretation on the 2014 interpretation sometime coming up but they did NOT address the interpretation in Part 107. Interestingly, Part 107 DOES allow for FPV provided you use a visual observer.

 

3. Part 107 isn’t for model aircraft people but just commercial people, right?

Part 107 has incorrectly been understood to be for commercial flyers.  It isn’t. It is for everyone that can fly under its operational parameters. It is just that non-model aircraft flyers can only fly in Part 107 which lead to everyone incorrectly thinking Part 101 is for recreational while Part 107 is for commercial. This caused confusion because some entities are not recreational or commercial! Non-profit environmental organizations or fire departments are two good situations where they aren’t charging for the flight and cannot fall into model aircraft operations yet they aren’t commercial. Commercial, recreational, government employees, non-profits, etc. can all fly under Part 107.

 

4. How much does the remote pilot initial knowledge exam cost?

First time pilots have to take the initial knowledge exam which is estimated at $150.[1] Current manned pilots can either take the initial knowledge exam for $150 or take an initial online training course for free. Either of those are pre-requisites to submitting an application to obtain the drone license.

 

5. When does Part 107 go into effect?

August 29, 2016.

 

6. Where can I take the 107 knowledge exam?

You take it at a knowledge exam testing center. A complete list is located here.

 

7. How can I Study for the Part 107 Knowledge Test to Get My Drone License?

I created a FREE 100+ page Part 107 test study guide which includes all the information you need to pass the exam. Let me repeat. ALL the information needed to pass the test is in this study guide. Additionally, the study guide comes with  6 “cram” summary pages, 41 sample Part 107 exam questions that are answered and explained, and 24 super hard brand-new practice questions NO ONE ELSE HAS.

 

I have been creating online paid video courses which are being sold through a separate company called Rupprecht Drones.

 

There are many paid training sources out there. But I do not know of any of them that are FAA certificated flight instructors AND also practicing aviation attorneys. Be skeptical of most of the 107 courses out there as some of them had to hire FAA certificated flight instructors to teach the material. This implicitly means they do NOT know the subject. Did the flight instructor they hire edit the material or just merely be recorded. In other words, what quality assurance do you have that the paid 107-course creators didn’t botch something up in the post-production?

 

Additionally, here is a list of Part 107 articles for you to study further:

8. How Long Does It Take to Receive My Drone License After I Submit on IACRA?

If you have a pilot certificate and took the initial knowledge exam, you have already passed a TSA security threat assessment background check when you obtained your manned aircraft pilot certificate. This means you will have your drone license faster than someone brand new going through the process.

If you are brand-new, I canNOT estimate because (1) the TSA’s backlog of pending IACRA applications seems to be growing and (2) I don’t know all the factors the FAA and TSA are looking at now.

 


9. I saw some link on the Facebook forums about a Part 107 test. I took it and received a certificate like what is on the right. Is this my drone license?

drone pilot licenseThat online test is NOT the Part 107 initial knowledge exam you need to take to obtain your drone license. That test is ONLY for the current manned aircraft pilots who wish to obtain their drone license. That online test by itself isn’t ALL they need to do to obtain the drone license. They still need to do a few additional things.  See Current Manned Aircraft Pilots Step-by-Step Instructions to Obtain the Drone License for more information.

 

10. How many different exams are there?

The current manned aircraft pilots can take either the initial online training course or the Part 107 initial knowledge exam while the first time pilots can ONLY take the initial Part 107 knowledge exam. After you receive your drone license, you’ll have to pass a recurrent exam within 24 calendar-months of passing either an initial or recurrent aeronautical knowledge test.

 


11. I read some people on Facebook telling me about the law and the drone license……

Let me stop you right there. Getting aviation law advice off Facebook forums is like getting medical help off Craigslist – it’s dumb. Yes, I know there are a few good attorneys online that do help, but there are also a ton of posers. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk or get aviation law info off Facebook. It is stupid to get advice on the internet. If the person on the internet goofs up, what happens is your drone license is on the line and potentially a fine or arrest. They have little downside while you could lose your ability to make money from your drone license.

 

On top of this, some of the people on these Facebook groups are committing the unlicensed practice of law by picking up clients for legal work but are too ignorant of their own criminal laws to know they are breaking these laws. Offering to help you be compliant with the law – while breaking the law themselves.

 

12. What happens if I fail the Part 107 initial knowledge test? Am I forever prevented from obtaining the drone license? 

The FAA’s Advisory Circular says on page 27, “Retaking the UAS knowledge test after a failure:

  • 14 CFR part 107, section 107.71 specifies that an applicant who fails the knowledge test may not retake the knowledge test for 14 calendar days from the date of the previous failure.
  • An applicant retesting after failure is required to submit the applicable AKTR indicating failure to the testing center prior to retesting.
  • No instructor endorsement or other form of written authorization is required to retest after failure.
  • The original failed AKTR must be retained by the proctor and attached to the applicable daily log.”

 

IV. The TSA Background Check for the Drone License Questions

 

1. I Made Some Mistakes in My Past. What Do the TSA and FAA Look For? What Disqualified me from Receiving a Drone License?

I don’t know all the factors. I can say the FAA really does not like alcohol and drug related crimes.  They also don’t like a breath refusal.

 

§107.57   Offenses involving alcohol or drugs.

(a) A conviction for the violation of any Federal or State statute relating to the growing, processing, manufacture, sale, disposition, possession, transportation, or importation of narcotic drugs, marijuana, or depressant or stimulant drugs or substances is grounds for:

(1) Denial of an application for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating for a period of up to 1 year after the date of final conviction; or

(2) Suspension or revocation of a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.

(b) Committing an act prohibited by §91.17(a) or §91.19(a) of this chapter is grounds for:

(1) Denial of an application for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating for a period of up to 1 year after the date of that act; or

(2) Suspension or revocation of a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.

§107.59   Refusal to submit to an alcohol test or to furnish test results.

A refusal to submit to a test to indicate the percentage by weight of alcohol in the blood, when requested by a law enforcement officer in accordance with §91.17(c) of this chapter, or a refusal to furnish or authorize the release of the test results requested by the Administrator in accordance with §91.17(c) or (d) of this chapter, is grounds for:

(a) Denial of an application for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating for a period of up to 1 year after the date of that refusal; or

(b) Suspension or revocation of a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.

 

2. I’m a new pilot, does TSA pre-check or global entry count? I want to get my drone license as quick as possible.

Don’t know.

 

3. I’m a  part 61 pilot trying to obtain my remote pilot certificate, do I have to get TSA background checked?

No, you already had your check when you obtained your Part 61 certificate.

 

4. I’m a fire fighter, law enforcement officer, government agency employee, etc……can I get my 107 certificate and then go do government stuff?  

Sure. But keep in mind that sometimes it might be beneficial to get a Public COA to accomplish the mission as there are certain restrictions with Part 107. However, there are Part 107 waivers that can be obtained. Contact me as each situation is different. See my article on public COA vs Part 107. 

 

5. I did a drone certification course with some company, does that count? Is that the same as a drone license?

No, your “certification” is worth nothing. A bunch of these drone courses popped up being taught by unqualified individuals who were far more proficient at WordPress and Mailchimp than they were at teaching weather and manuals. Only the FAA can certify you.

 

6. Do you have to have a pilot’s license to fly a drone?

It depends. If you are flying recreationally according to Part 101, you do NOT need to have a pilot license. If you are flying non-recreationally (commercial, etc.), then you would need a pilot certificate.

 

 

V. Current Manned Aircraft Pilots Step-by-Step Instructions to Obtain the Drone License

You may be either a sport, recreational, private, commercial, or air transport pilot. You CANNOT be a student pilot. Additionally, the pilot must be current according to 14 C.F.R. § 61.56. This can be done multiple ways but the most popular is they have a sign off in their logbook saying they have completed their bi-annual flight review (BFR).

 

For some, getting a BFR can be much more expensive than taking the Part 107 initial knowledge exam which costs $150. You can be a non-current pilot and take the initial knowledge exam, then submit your application on IACRA. You’ll receive your temporary drone pilot license (remote pilot certificate) electronically so many days later. If this is your situation, then do the “first-time pilot” steps above.

 

Flight Plan for a Current Manned Aircraft Pilot to Obtain the Drone License:

  1. Read the 3-page Part 107 Summary.
  2. Go and read Part 107 regulations. Anytime you have a question about something, make a note and keep reading.
  3. Read the Advisory Circular to Part 107.  Notice that the advisory circular has parts that parallel the parts in Part 107 to help answer any questions you have about the regulations.
  4. Do the remote pilot certificate application process below.

Drone License Application Process:

  1. Complete the online training course “Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) ALC-451” available on the FAA FAASTeam website.
  2. Complete FAA Form 8710-13 (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application for a remote pilot certificate)
    1. Figure out if you want to do it online at IACRA or by paper (the paper form you print out is located here).
    2. Either way, you are going to need to validate applicant identity on IACRA or 8710-13.
      • Contact an FSDO, an FAA-designated pilot examiner (DPE), an airman certification representative (ACR), or an FAA-certificated flight instructor (CFI) to make an appointment to validate your identity. I would suggest doing this with the FSDO because the inspector can give you a temporary certificate at the same time! Look up your local FSDO and make an appointment. Note: FSDO’s almost always do not take walk-ins.  You can also go to a DPE but I think it is better to meet your local FSDO employees because they are the ones that will be doing the investigations in your area.
      • Present the completed FAA Form 8710-13 along with the online course completion certificate or knowledge test report (as applicable) and proof of a current flight review.
      • The completed FAA Form 8710-13 application will be signed by the applicant after the FSDO, DPE, ACR, or CFI examines the applicant’s photo identification and verifies the applicant’s identity. If you are using a CFI to help you process your application, make sure you and they read FAA article below called Tips for CFIs Processing Remote Pilot & Student Pilot Applications. 
        • The identification presented must include a photograph of the applicant, the applicant’s signature, and the applicant’s actual residential address (if different from the mailing address). This information may be presented in more than one form of identification.
        • Acceptable methods of identification include, but are not limited to U.S. drivers’ licenses, government identification cards, passports, and military identification cards (see AC 61-65 Certification: Pilots and Flight and Ground Instructors)
    3. The FAA representative will then sign the application.
  1. An appropriate FSDO representative, a FAA designated pilot examiner (DPE), or an airman certification representative (ACR) will issue the applicant a temporary airman certificate (a CFI is not authorized to issue a temporary certificate; they can process applications for applicants who do not want a temporary certificate). The CFI will submit the information on IACRA and you’ll receive your temporary electronically so many days later.
  2. A permanent remote pilot certificate (drone pilot license) will be sent via mail once all other FAA internal processing is complete.

 

If you need legal services or want to set up enterprise operations to get all your in-house pilots certified, fleet and pilot management, or crew training, contact me at to help with those needs. I work with many other certified aviation professionals to help large companies integrate drones into their operations to be profitable and legal. When looking for aviation law help, don’t hire a poser – hire an attorney who is a pilot. 

 

VI. Current Pilot FAQs Regarding the Drone License

1. How long does my temporary certificate last? 

Section 107.64(a) says, “A temporary remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating is issued for up to 120 calendar days, at which time a permanent certificate will be issued to a person whom the Administrator finds qualified under this part.”

 

2. Do I Have to Get Another Medical Exam Before I fly Under My Drone License?

No, a remote pilot certificate does NOT require a medical certificate. However, section 107.17 says, “No person may manipulate the flight controls of a small unmanned aircraft system or act as a remote pilot in command, visual observer, or direct participant in the operation of the small unmanned aircraft if he or she knows or has reason to know that he or she has a physical or mental condition that would interfere with the safe operation of the small unmanned aircraft system.”

 

3. I’m a current part 61 pilot trying to obtain my remote pilot certificate, do I have to get TSA background checked?

No, you already had your check when you obtained your Part 61 certificate. This means you’ll receive your remote pilot certificate faster than a new pilot.

 

VII. Currency (Every 24 Months You Have to Prove Your Aeronautical Knowledge) 

Section 107.65 says, a “person may not operate a small unmanned aircraft system unless that person has completed one of the following, within the previous 24 calendar months:

(a) Passed an initial aeronautical knowledge test covering the areas of knowledge specified in §107.73(a);

(b) Passed a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test covering the areas of knowledge specified in §107.73(b); or

(c) If a person holds a pilot certificate (other than a student pilot certificate) issued under part 61 of this chapter and meets the flight review requirements specified in §61.56, passed either an initial or recurrent training course covering the areas of knowledge specified in §107.74(a) or (b) in a manner acceptable to the Administrator.”

You need 1 of the following within the previous 24 calendar months to operate under Part 107; however, if you don’t meet this, you are grounded from flying under Part 107 but you still could fly recreationally under Part 101.

 

 

Does your remote pilot certificate expire?

No, you don’t lose your remote pilot certificate. It really shouldn’t be termed recertification as you are NOT getting a certificate again or have to worry about losing the certificate. You just cannot exercise the privileges of the remote pilot certificate.

Everyone typically gets confused by what I just said. I’ll give you some examples.

  • Bob passes an initial aeronautical knowledge test on September 15, 2016 and received his remote pilot certificate. This means Bob needs to do (a),(b), or (c) no later than September 30, 2018. Otherwise, he’ll have to stop flying under Part 107 until he does (a), (b), or (c).
  • Tony passed the exam with Bob on September 15, 2016.   He received his remote pilot certificate. He did not take the recurrent exam until October 10, 2018 and passed in the afternoon at 1:34PM. Tony could not fly from October 1-10 up till he passed the test around 1:33-34PM. Once he passed, he was good to go for another 24 months (October 31st, 2020 @ 11:59 PM).
  • Sam, who also passed with Bob and Tony on September 15, 2016, received his remote pilot certificate but didn’t really do much drone flying because of life circumstances. He managed to pass the recurrent knowledge exam on December 14, 2019. He is good until December 31st, 2021.

Important point.  Please note that when calculating recency, you are going off of when you did (a), (b), or (c) above, NOT when you received your remote pilot certificate or what is dated on your certificate.

 

I lost my knowledge test report. How do I figure out when my currency expires?

Well, you won’t find the answer on IACRA, your remote pilot certificate, or the FAA airmen registry.  Here are some solutions:

  • Dig into your emails to see if your have a test payment or schedule confirmation with some date attached. You might want to try this email ([email protected]) if you went with CATS.
  • Another thing to do is look into your calendar and see if you put it in there.
  • If the date is fuzzy, try to at least figure out the month you took it in. Currency runs out on the last day of that month 24 months later.
  • Maybe call CATS or Lasergrade customer support and ask them when you took your previous test and while you are on the phone just book the recurrent exam.

 

How do I check if someone else is current?

You would think the FAA would have just put expiration dates on the remote pilot certificates like they do with my flight instructor certificate but no. If you search the FAA airmen registry, you’ll just see date of issue but not when currency expires.

 

If you are checking a person’s currency (like if you are hiring a person or if you are a police officer stopping a drone flyer) you need to ask them for:

  • Method 1: their remote pilot certificate AND initial or recurrent knowledge exam test report or
  • Method 2: their Part 61 pilot certificate (but not student pilot certificate), how they meet the flight review requirements of 61.56, AND their initial or recurrent online training course certificate.

 

You find the date in method 1 or 2. You add two years and then find the last day of the month. It is important to know this as there might be some scam artists out there trying to save $150 by not taking a knowledge exam and hoping people don’t check.

 

Dude, are you saying I should bring along my knowledge exam with my remote pilot certificate with me when I fly?

Well, it is a good idea in case that someone you are dealing with also read my article and wonders if you really are current. 😊

Additionally, the FAA said this, “The FAA does not specify the method by which the certificate holder stores and displays his or her knowledge test report or course completion certificate; however, the certificate holder must provide the documents to the FAA upon request.” So a second reason to keep it with you is in case the FAA stops you.

Now you might have noticed that you can take the initial or recurrent knowledge exams. The initial knowledge test is 60 questions over 2 hours while recurrent is 40 questions over 1.5 hours. They both require a passing score of 70% and will cost $150 to take.

 

Here is a table I created for the online video training course on Part 107 Regulations being sold over at Rupprecht Drones.

initial versus recurrent remote pilot (aka drone license) test

 

The percentages of questions on topics have changed also.

drone-license-test-subject-percentages

This means if you are going for a recurrent knowledge exam, you should beef up your Part 107 regulations knowledge and your airspace knowledge as those two areas make up 60-80% of the exam.

 

Guess what, I have already created a paid Part 107 Regulations online video course over at Rupprecht Drones (separate business) that has 100+ questions and 40 videos.  And the second course I’m working on is going to cover airspace and charts. :)

 

Yes, I understand that times can be tough. Please keep in mind that hiring me or purchasing courses helps me to keep creating free material for you guys to enjoy. The big difference between the two solutions is the Part 107 Regulations course has all the key important parts of the 107 database, 100+ questions created by me, the videos can be listened to while being time efficient (dishes, exercising, etc.), and can be done quicker than reading all the 107 regulations pages in the database. Just try it out.  You can sign up for a free trial and watch some of the videos of the 107 Regulations video course.

 

Ok ok. So you still want the free stuff.

 

You have two methods:

(1) Click here to be taken to the free recurrent knowledge test study guide with everything located in it.

(2) Sign up below and check your email for the PDF study guide. :)

 

VIII. Want to Continue Learning About Part 107? Need Drone License Study Material?

You can use these articles to study for your drone license or use them to brush up on the material so you can stay proficient and safe.

IX. FAA Safety Notice: Tips for CFIs Processing Remote Pilot & Student Pilot Applications
Notice Number: NOTC7141

“While tens of thousands of applications for these certificates have been successfully processed by recommending officials during the past year, a significant number of applications have had to be returned to CFIs for needed corrections. This delayed the issuance and delivery of the certificates and sadly resulted in having some of our applicants waiting for certificates longer than they and we would have liked. Points below emphasize what you as a CFI can do to keep the certification system working efficiently.

 

Be certain the applicant uses his or her legal name. Advise applicant to use the same legal name on his or her application for any knowledge test and all subsequent certificate applications. When there is a mismatch in names between an application and a knowledge test or a mismatch between a current and previous application, the current application is rejected. The applicant may have to visit a Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) in order to effect a name change.

 

IACRA allows an applicant to change his or her name in the user profile. If the applicant’s name is not his or her full legal name (limited to 50 characters), then you should tell the applicant to amend his or her name in the IACRA user profile and start a new application. It’s very important to get this right on the applicant’s first application submitted—the student pilot or remote pilot application that is submitted to the FAA Airman Registry as a legal document. The address the applicant uses must be a residential address, and not a business address. If a business address is detected, the application will also be rejected for correction by the registry.

 

Don’t forget to send all paper applications to the local FSDO for review.  About a third of the rejected remote pilot certificate applications in the past year were paper applications that were mistakenly sent directly to AFS-760 by the recommending CFI. Remember to include the FAA Course Completion Certificate for an existing pilot’s remote pilot certificate application.

 

Consider that IACRA helps to ensure a complete and correct application and instantly submits the application to AFS-760. Although the Airmen Certification Branch, AFS-760, will accept a paper application using a paper FAA Form 8710-1 (for a student pilot certificate application) or FAA paper Form 8710-13 (for a remote pilot certificate and/or rating application), the chance of a return for correction is lower when IACRA is used by the CFI and the IACRA process is much faster.

 

Note that whenever the CFI acts as a recommending official, the applicant must be in the same room as the CFI during the application process. The CFI can’t accept an application for a student or remote pilot certificate through the mail, over the phone, by fax, or even by messenger service.  This ensures that there is proper vetting of the applicant’s ID and that the applicant is the rightful bearer of the documents presented. The IACRA process gives the CFI a checklist.  As part of the process the CFI logs off and the applicant must log on to the same console to complete the application process. So, never use anyone else’s user id and password for the system for the sake of convenience since it could lead to some serious issues down the road for those involved. Always check the applicant’s identity carefully and in person.

 

It’s also a great idea to include the applicant’s email and telephone number on an application in case contact for correction is necessary. As a CFI, you can write in your own phone number in the comment section of an application as a courtesy to FAA personnel who may need to contact you about the application. Otherwise, they will have to contact you by mail using your address on file.

 

For questions or to learn more please email [email protected]

 


EPIC v. FAA, Drone Advisory Committee RTCA, & more.

Brief Summary of the Lawsuit:

April 2018, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sued:

in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia with counts alleging:

  1. Violation of the FACA: Failure to Open Meetings to the Public
  2. Violation of the APA: Agency Action Unlawfully Withheld
  3. Violation of the APA: Unlawful Agency Action
  4. Violation of the FACA: Failure to Make Records Available for Public Inspection
  5. Violation of the APA: Agency Action Unlawfully Withheld
  6. Violation of the APA: Unlawful Agency Action
  7. Claim for Declaratory Relief Under 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a)

EPIC alleges, “Although the DAC has been regularly meeting and advising the FAA since September 2016, it has conducted much of its work in secret and released only a small number of committee records.” They are suing to obtain records not released and also to open the DAC’s sub-committees to public access.

EPIC has sued the FAA/DOT at least 3 other times over issues surrounding drones according to my drone lawsuit/litigation database. EPIC currently has another case pending  before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals which has consolidated with the 4th Taylor v. FAA case.

 

Actual Text of EPIC’s Complaint:

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

 

ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER

v.
DRONE ADVISORY COMMITTEE;

FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION; DANIEL K. ELWELL, in his official capacity as Acting Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and Designated Federal Officer of the Drone Advisory Committee and RTCA Advisory Committee;

RTCA ADVISORY COMMITTEE;

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION; DAVID W. FREEMAN, in his official capacity as Committee Management Officer of the Department of Transportation;

Civ. Action No. 18-833

 

COMPLAINT FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF
1. This is an action under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (“FACA”), 5 U.S.C. app. 2; the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. §§ 551–706; and the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a), for injunctive and other appropriate relief to compel the Drone Advisory Committee (“DAC” or “Committee”) to comply with its transparency obligations.

2. Plaintiff Electronic Privacy Information Center (“EPIC”) specifically challenges (a) Defendants’ failure to make advisory committee meetings “open to the public,” as required by 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 10(a)(1); and (b) Defendants’ failure to make “available for public inspection and copying” the “records, reports, transcripts, minutes, appendixes, working papers, drafts, studies, agenda, or other documents” of the DAC, as required by 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 10(b).

3. Access to these nonpublic meetings and records would reveal how, if at all, the Drone Advisory Committee has addressed the threat that the deployment of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (“UAVs” or “aerial drones” or simply “drones”) would pose to the privacy rights of persons in the United States.

 

Jurisdiction and Venue
4. This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 5 U.S.C. § 702, and 5 U.S.C. § 704. This Court has personal jurisdiction over Defendants.

5. Venue is proper in this district under 5 U.S.C. § 703 and 28 U.S.C. § 1391. Parties

6. Plaintiff EPIC is a nonprofit organization, incorporated in Washington, D.C., established in 1994 to focus public attention on emerging privacy and civil liberties issues. Central to EPIC’s mission is oversight and analysis of government activities that impact individual privacy. EPIC is a membership organization. The Members of EPIC’s Advisory Board include distinguished experts in law, technology, and public policy.

7. EPIC is the leading organization in the United States addressing the privacy issues that arise from the deployment of drones in the National Airspace System (“NAS”). As early as 2005, EPIC warned the public and policymakers about the adverse impact that drone surveillance would have on individual privacy.1

8. EPIC filed a petition with the FAA in 2012—joined by over 100 organizations, experts, and members of the public—demanding that the agency issue privacy regulations to safeguard the interests of the American public.2 EPIC has also twice brought suit against the FAA to enforce the agency’s obligation to establish privacy protections against drone surveillance. EPIC first sued the FAA when the agency denied EPIC’s 2012 petition and failed to address privacy issues in its first drone rulemaking. EPIC v. FAA, 821 F.3d 39 (D.C. Cir. 2016). EPIC subsequently filed suit to challenge the FAA’s final rule on small drones, a case which is currently pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. EPIC v. FAA, No. 16- 1297 (D.C. Cir. argued Jan. 25, 2018).

9. EPIC recently filed a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) suit against the Department of Homeland Security to obtain the agency’s drone policies, reports, and procedures. EPIC v. DHS, No. 18-545 (D.D.C. filed Mar. 8, 2018). In 2016, EPIC obtained key documents through a FOIA request concerning the work of the FAA’s Drone Registration Task Force. And in 2015, an EPIC FOIA case identified significant privacy and maintenance problems with the Department of Defense JLENS program, in which the Department conducted domestic surveillance using blimp-mounted radar and video equipment. EPIC v. Dep’t of the Army, No.  14–776 (D.D.C. filed May 6, 2014). After a JLENS surveillance blimp broke free, downed multiple power lines, and crash-landed in Pennsylvania, the program was eventually cancelled.

10. EPIC maintains one of the most popular privacy websites in the world, https://epic.org, which provides EPIC’s members and the public with access to current information about emerging privacy and civil liberties issues. EPIC’s website includes extensive information about the privacy risks arising from drone surveillance. EPIC frequently posts documents obtained under the FOIA and other open government statutes in order to educate the public about the privacy implications of government programs and activities.

11. Defendant Drone Advisory Committee (“DAC”) is an advisory committee of the United States government within the meaning of 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 3(2). Ex. 1 at 3.5 The DAC was established and is utilized by the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) and the United States Department of Transportation (“DOT”). The DAC includes a Drone Advisory Subcommittee (“DACSC” or “Subcommittee”) and at least three task groups: Task Group 1, Task Group 2, and Task Group 3 (collectively, “DAC Task Groups” or “Task Groups”). The DAC, the DACSC, and the DAC Task Groups are all under and part of the RTCA Advisory Committee (“RTCA”).

12. Defendant RTCA Advisory Committee is an advisory committee of the United States government within the meaning of 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 3(2). The RTCA is utilized—and was established as a federal advisory committee—by both the FAA and the DOT. The RTCA is also an umbrella organization comprising at least 26 constituent advisory committees, including the DAC.

13. Defendant Federal Aviation Administration is an agency within the meaning of 5 U.S.C. § 701, 5 U.S.C. § 551, and 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 3(3). The FAA is also a sub-agency of the DOT.

14. Defendant Daniel K. Elwell is the Acting Administrator of the FAA. Mr. Elwell is also the Designated Federal Officer (“DFO”) of the DAC and the RTCA within the meaning of 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 10(e)–(f).

15. Defendant United States Department of Transportation is an agency within the meaning of 5 U.S.C. § 701, 5 U.S.C. § 551, and 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 3(3).

16. Defendant David W. Freeman is the Committee Management Officer (“CMO”) of the DOT within the meaning of 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 8(b). Mr. Freeman is responsible for controlling and supervising the DAC, the RTCA, and the DFO of both committees (currently Mr. Elwell). Id.

Facts

The Growing Privacy Risks Posed by Drones

17. The integration of drones into the National Airspace System will adversely affect millions of Americans. Reports of drones threatening the safety of aircraft, civilians, first responders, and law enforcement officers—as well as reports of surveillance by drones on private property and “drone stalking”—are increasing.

18. Many operators enable their drones to surreptitiously observe, record, or otherwise collect information from individuals without their knowledge or consent, even through walls or from thousands of feet in the air.

19. Drones are routinely equipped with high definition cameras that greatly increase the capacity for domestic surveillance.9 Drones can also gather sensitive, personal information using infrared cameras, heat sensors, GPS, automated license plate readers, facial recognition devices, and other sensors.10 Drones are even “capable of locking-on to an individual and following them while shooting video and avoiding obstacles,” including in “a dense forest or urban environments like a warehouse.”

20. Drone use and drone sales are rapidly growing. U.S. drone sales more than doubled between 2016 and 2017,12 and commercial drones are representing an ever-larger share of the worldwide drone market.13 Meanwhile, President Trump has taken steps to effect a “quick and dramatic expansion of drone use” in the NAS.14 Unwelcome Visit, N.Y. Times (Jan. 27, 2016), https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/28/style/ neighbors-drones-invade-privacy.html.

21. Despite these alarming trends, the FAA has refused to promulgate generally applicable regulations to address the privacy risks posed by drones—even ignoring a Congressional command to do so in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.

22. The Drone Advisory Committee, which directly advises the FAA on drone deployment, has the obligation to present to the FAA proposals and recommendations to address widespread and obvious public concerns about the impending risks of drone surveillance in the United States.

23. Yet there is no evidence that the DAC has fulfilled its essential responsibility to assess these risks to the public interest. References to privacy are extremely sparse in the few public DAC records, while the vast majority of DAC records and subcommittee meetings remain closed to the public in violation of the FACA.

The Formation and Structure of the DAC

24. On May 4, 2016, then-FAA Administrator Michael Huerta stated that the FAA was “establishing” the DAC, which he described as “a broad-based advisory committee that will provide advice on key unmanned aircraft integration issues.” Ex 2.16

25. The DAC was in fact “established” by the FAA on or before August 31, 2016. Ex. 3.17 The DAC was “formed under the RTCA federal advisory committee.” Id.

26. The chairman and the original members of the DAC were appointed by the FAA on or before August 31, 2016. Id. The Committee held its first public meeting on September 16, 2016, in Washington, D.C. Ex. 4.18

27. As of March 2018, the DAC was comprised of thirty-two members. Ex. 14.19 Eighteen Committee members are affiliated with corporations or organizations engaged in the design, manufacture, operation, or management of drones. Id. Nine members are affiliated with traditional aircraft operators, airport authorities, or associations of aviation professionals. Id. Two members are university-affiliated researchers, and three members are public officials (only one of whom is elected). Id. No privacy, consumer safety, or other general public interest groups are represented on the DAC.

28. The DAC Terms of Reference—which the FAA “issued,” Ex. 10 at 420—charge the DAC with providing an “open venue” for Committee members to “identify and recommend a single, consensus-based set of resolutions for issues regarding the efficiency and safety of integrating UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] into the NAS and to develop recommendations to address those issues and challenges.” Ex. 1 at 2.

29. According to the FAA, DAC members are to “discuss key issues and challenges associated with integrating unmanned aircraft in the world’s busiest and most complicated airspace system.” Ex. 2. However, the Committee is to “conduct more detailed business through a subcommittee and various task groups that will help the FAA prioritize its activities, including the development of future regulations and policies.” Id.

30. The DAC Subcommittee was established at some point between the first full DAC meeting (September 16, 2016), Ex. 4, and the second full DAC meeting (January 31, 2017), Ex. 5.21 The date of the Subcommittee’s first meeting, as with nearly all DACSC proceedings, was not announced and is not publicly known.

31. The DACSC Terms of Reference—which the FAA “issued,” Ex. 10 at 4—state that the Subcommittee’s role is to “support” the DAC, to “present findings to DAC,” and to “[f]orward recommendations and other deliverables to DAC for consideration.” Ex. 6 at 1, 3.22 However, contrary to the DACSC Terms of Reference, FAA officials have repeatedly circumvented the full DAC and worked directly with the Subcommittee.

32. For example, FAA officials have “brief[ed]” and “educat[ed]” the DACSC, Ex. 10 at 8; provided “guidance and assistance to the DAC Subcommittee,” Ex. 11 at 2;23 and personally participated in multiple DAC meetings at which the Subcommittee delivered reports on its work. See, e.g., Ex. 5 at 2–3; Ex. 10 at 3–4, 8; Ex. 12 at 2, 7.24

33. Moreover, the DAC’s Designated Federal Officer—previously Acting FAA Deputy Administrator Victoria B. Wassmer, now Acting Administrator Elwell—is required by both the RTCA Charter and the FACA to be intimately involved in the proceedings of the DACSC. The “DFO or alternate” must “[c]all, attend, and adjourn all the committee/ subcommittee meetings”; “[a]pprove all committee/subcommittee agendas”; and “[c]hair meetings when directed to do so by the FAA Administrator.” Ex. 13 at 2–3;25 see also 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 10(e)–(f).

34. The DAC also includes at least three “FAA-approved Task Groups,” each of which must “have a specific, limited charter” that is “approved by the FAA Administrator.” Ex. 1 at 2. According to the FAA, the agency’s “traditional way of providing tasking” to Task Groups is to “finalize and approve the tasking statement and forward it to the [Committee] to execute.” Ex. 5 at 10.

35. Task Group 1 was established at some point between the first full DAC meeting (September 16, 2016), Ex. 4, and the second full DAC meeting (January 31, 2017), Ex. 5. The FAA instructed Task Group 1 to “[d]evelop a set of consensus based recommendations” concerning “the roles and responsibilities of federal, state, and local governments in regulating and enforcing drone laws.” Ex. 7 at 7.26

36. Task Group 2 was also established at some point between the first full DAC meeting (September 16, 2016), Ex. 4, and the second full DAC meeting (January 31, 2017), Ex. 5. The FAA instructed Task Group 2 to “provide recommendations on UAS operations/missions beyond those currently permitted” and “define procedures for industry to gain access to the airspace.” Ex. 8 at 1.27

37. Task Group 3 was established sometime between the second full DAC meeting (January 31, 2017), Ex. 5, and the third full DAC meeting (May 3, 2017), Ex. 10. The FAA instructed Task Group 3 to “develop recommendations as to the UAS community’s preferred method(s) for 26 Tasking Statement from Victoria B. Wassmer, Acting Deputy Adm’r, FAA, to DAC Task Group 1 (Jan. 31, 2017).

38. The DACSC Terms of Reference nominally require the Task Groups to perform their work “at the direction of the DACSC,” Ex. 6 at 3, rather than at the direction of FAA officials. In October 2017, Mr. Elwell, then the FAA Deputy Administrator, explained to the Washington Post: “If we [the FAA] meddle, if we get in there, they’re not advising us.” Ex. 20.29 Nevertheless, FAA officials have personally directed, guided, participated in, and received the work and recommendations of the Task Groups.

39. For example, in early 2017, Acting Deputy Administrator Wassmer “issued” the detailed tasking statements for all three Task Groups. Ex. 10 at 4. The tasking statements included factfinding assignments for each Task Group, topics that each Task Group should advise on, and deadlines by which each Task Group should deliver its recommendations and reports. See Ex. 7; Ex. 8; Ex. 9. As Wassmer made clear to the DAC, “tasking statements from the FAA should guide the work of the DAC, DACSC, and TGs.” Ex. 10 at 4.

40. Wassmer and Acting Administrator Elwell also personally attended DAC meetings at which the Task Groups delivered substantive recommendations and reports. See, e.g., Ex. 10 at 2, 9–17; Ex. 11 at 1, 3–9; Ex. 12 at 2, 8–18.

41. And because the Task Groups constitute subcommittees of the DAC, Wassmer and Elwell were (or are) required to be intimately involved in the proceedings of the Task Groups in their capacity as Designated Federal Officer. Under the RTCA Charter, the “DFO or alternate” must “[c]all, attend, and adjourn all the committee/ subcommittee meetings”; “[a]pprove all committee/subcommittee agendas”; and “[c]hair meetings when directed to do so by the FAA Administrator.” Ex. 13 at 2–3; see also 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 10(e)–(f).

The Transparency Obligations of the DAC

42. The DAC, according its Terms of Reference, must conduct its work in the “open, transparent venue of a federal advisory committee (FAC). As with all FACs, the Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) will be designed to: ensure transparency, include broad and balanced representation across the industry, encourage innovation and remain consistent with US anti-trust laws.” Ex. 1 at 1.

43. Under the FACA, the meetings of each advisory committee—defined as any “committee, board, commission, council, conference, panel, task force, or other similar group, or any subcommittee or other subgroup thereof” which is “established or utilized” by an agency—“shall be open to the public.” 5 U.S.C. app. 2 §§ 3(2), 10(a)(1).

44. The Charter of the RTCA—of which the DAC, the DACSC, and the DAC Task Groups are all part—confirms that “RTCA Advisory Committee and subcommittee meetings will be
open to the public, except as provided by section 10(d) of the FACA and applicable regulations. Meetings will be announced in the Federal Register at least 15 days before each meeting, except in emergencies.” Ex. 13 at 3.

45. The DAC Terms of Reference further underscore that “The DAC functions as a Federal advisory committee with meetings that are open to the public, unless otherwise noted as authorized by section 10(d) of the FACA and applicable regulations . . . .” Ex. 1 at 3.

46. Under the FACA, “the records, reports, transcripts, minutes, appendixes, working papers, drafts, studies, agenda, or other documents which were made available to or prepared for or by each advisory committee shall be available for public inspection and copying at a single location in the offices of the advisory committee or the agency to which the advisory committee reports until the advisory committee ceases to exist.” 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 10(b).

47. The RTCA Charter confirms that “[s]ubject to the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, records, reports, transcripts, minutes, or meeting summaries, and other materials presented to or prepared for the RTCA Advisory Committee are available for public inspection.” Ex. 13 at 4.

48. The DAC Terms of Reference state that “[i]n accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act, meeting summaries and related information will be available to the public via RTCA’s website. Documents undergoing final review can be obtained by contacting RTCA.” Ex. 1 at 6.

49. The RTCA Charter also states that the “records of the committee, formally and informally established subcommittees, or other work or task subgroup of the subcommittee, shall be handled in accordance with the General Records Schedule 6.2, or other approved agency records disposition schedule.” Id.

50. General Records Schedule 6.2 “covers Federal records created or received by Federal advisory committees and their subgroups pursuant to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) of 1972 (5 U.S.C., Appendix, as amended) and records related to the management of these committees by their sponsoring agencies or departments.” Nat’l Archives & Records Admin., General Records Schedule 6.2: Federal Advisory Committee Records 130 (Sep. 2016), Ex. 15.

51. General Records Schedule 6.2 requires the “[p]ermanent” preservation of “records related to the establishment of the committee”; “records related to committee membership”; “records of committee meetings and hearings”; “records related to committee findings and recommendations”; “records created by committee members,” including “correspondence documenting discussions, decisions, or actions related to the work of the committee”; “records related to research collected or created by the committee”; “documentation of advisory committee subcommittees”; “records that document the activities of subcommittees that support their reports and recommendations to the chartered or parent committee.” Id. at 130–32.

52. The General Services Administration, which is “responsible for all matters relating to advisory committees,” and “prescribe[s] administrative guidelines and management controls applicable to advisory committees,” 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 7, instructs that: “Whether subcommittees are open to the public or not, the agency must . . . [c]omply with recordkeeping requirements (i.e., minutes)” and “[a]llow public access to subcommittee records.” Federal Advisory Committee Act Training Course 192 (2017), Ex 16.

53. FACA regulations also dictate that a committee or agency “may not require members of the public or other interested parties to file requests for non-exempt advisory committee records under the request and review process established by section 552(a)(3) of FOIA.” 41 C.F.R. § 102-3.170.

The Activities of the DAC and DAC Subcomponents

54. On September 16, 2016, the DAC held its first full Committee meeting in Washington, D.C. Ex. 4. Acting Deputy Administrator Wassmer, then the Committee’s DFO, attended the meeting and delivered remarks. Id. at 1.

55. DAC Secretary Al Secen presented the results of a survey of DAC members at the September 2016 meeting. DAC members identified privacy as the second-highest public concern around drones, narrowly trailing safety and reliability:

56. Yet in the same survey, DAC members ranked privacy dead last among their regulatory and policy concerns:

57. During the September 2016 meeting, the DAC identified as an action item: “Establish a WG to describe the privacy concerns, and to identify the respective roles and responsibilities for dealing with privacy concerns across local, state, regional and federal entities.” However, there is no public record of the DAC ever forming a working group focused on privacy.

58. During the same meeting, the DAC also identified “[e]stablishing a standing DAC Subcommittee,” “[e]stablish[ing] a task group” as action items. Ex. 4 at 2.

59. Between the DAC’s September 2016 and January 2017 meetings, the DACSC, Task Group 1, and Task Group 2 were formed and began engaging in official Committee business. See Ex. 5 at 2–7.

60. Although members of the DACSC and the Task Groups met and conferred during this period, see id., Defendants failed to publicly notice or announce any such meetings.

61. Defendants have also failed to make any DACSC or Task Group records from this period available for public inspection, apart from limited information presented to the DAC at its January 2017 meeting.

62. On January 31, 2017, the DAC held its second full Committee meeting in Reno, Nevada. Ex. 5. Acting Deputy Administrator Wassmer, then the Committee’s DFO, attended the meeting and delivered remarks. Id. at 1.

63. The DACSC, Task Group 1, and Task Group 2 each delivered a progress report to the DAC at the January 2017 meeting. Id. at 2–7. Task Group 1 and Task Group 2 discussed their substantive recommendations to the FAA. Id. at 3–7. The DAC also “approved the DACSC to go through the process of creating TG3 [Task Group 3]” based on the tasking statement issued by the FAA. Id. at 10.

64. According to the publicly available records of the January 2017 meeting, the privacy implications of drones were referenced only once in passing.

65. Between the DAC’s January 2017 and May 2017 meetings, the DACSC, Task Group 1, and Task Group 2 continued engaging in official Committee business. See Ex. 10 at 8–14. Task Group 3 was also formed during this period and began engaging in official Committee business. See id. at 14–16.

66. Although members of the DACSC and the Task Groups met and conferred during this period, see Ex. 10 at 8–16, Defendants failed to publicly notice or announce any such meetings.

67. Defendants have also failed to make any DACSC or Task Group records from this period available for public inspection, apart from limited information presented to the DAC at its May 2017 meeting.

68. On May 3, 2017, the DAC held its third full Committee meeting in Herndon, Virginia. Ex. 10. Acting Deputy Administrator Wassmer, then the Committee’s DFO, attended the meeting and delivered remarks. Id. at 1.

69. The DACSC and each of the Task Groups delivered a progress report to the DAC at the May 2017 meeting. Id. at 8–16. Task Group 1 and Task Group 2 discussed their substantive recommendations to the FAA. Id. at 8–14.

70. According to the publicly available records of the May 2017 meeting, the privacy implications of drones were referenced only twice in passing.

71. Between the DAC’s May 2017 and July 2017 meetings, the DACSC and the Task Groups continued engaging in official Committee business. See Ex. 11 at 3–9.

72. Although members of the DACSC and the Task Groups met and conferred during this period, see id., Defendants failed to publicly notice or announce any such meetings.

73. Defendants have also failed to make any DACSC or Task Group records from this period available for public inspection, apart from limited information presented to the DAC at its July 2017 meeting.

74. On July 21, 2017, the DAC held its fourth full Committee meeting via digital conference. Ex. 11. Mr. Elwell, then the FAA Deputy Administrator, attended the meeting as the Committee’s newly appointed DFO. Id. at 2. Elwell also delivered remarks during the meeting. Id. at 2–3.

75. Task Group 1 and Task Group 3 both delivered a progress report and recommendations to the DAC at the July 2017 meeting. Id. at 3–9. Task Group 3 also presented an interim report intended for the FAA concerning funding mechanisms for the introduction of drones into the NAS. Id. at 3–7.

76. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who served on the DAC until his death in December 2017, sent a representative to the July 2017 meeting to speak on his behalf. The representative told the DAC that Mayor Lee “remained concerned about privacy and ensuring broader input in the[DAC] discussion from partners such as law enforcement agencies and other local government representatives. The desire is to have an equal, one-to-one representation of local government to industry members.”

77. According to the publicly available records of the July 2017 meeting, Mayor Lee’s statement was the sole reference made by the DAC to the privacy implications of drones.

78. During the July 2017 meeting, the DAC approved the interim funding report presented by Task Group 3. The RTCA officially delivered the Task Group 3 report to then-Deputy Administrator Elwell on September 11, 2017. Ex. 17.30 The RTCA Advisory Committee does not appear to have collectively reviewed or approved the Task Group 3 report before transmitting it to the FAA.

79. Between the DAC’s July 2017 and November 2017 meetings, the DACSC and the Task Groups continued engaging in official Committee business. See Ex. 12 at 8–18.

80. Although members of the DACSC and the Task Groups met and conferred during this period, see id., Defendants failed to publicly notice or announce any meetings.

81. Defendants have also failed to make any DACSC or Task Group records from this period available for public inspection, apart from limited information presented to the DAC at its November 2017 meeting.

82. On October 23, 2017, the Washington Post published a report that Task Group 1—a group that includes “industry insiders with a financial stake in the outcome” of the Committee process—“has been holding confidential meetings to shape U.S. policy on drones, deliberating privately about who should regulate a burgeoning industry that will affect everything from package delivery to personal privacy.” Ex. 21.31

83. The Washington Post also reported that the Task Group 1 process had “been riven by suspicion and dysfunction” and that “[m]onths of tensions came to a head” when “an FAA contractor that manages the group told members they had to sign a far-reaching confidentiality agreement to keep participating. After some raised concerns, several groups were blocked from
30 Letter from Margaret Jenny, President, RTCA, to Daniel K. Elwell, Deputy Adm’r, FAA (Sep. 11, 2017).

84. On November 8, 2017, Mayor Ed Lee sent a letter to DAC Chairman Brian Krzanich warning that “Task Group 1’s process has been marred by a lack of transparency and poor management,” including “lack of agendas, last minute rescheduling of meetings, failure to have minutes of any proceedings, conflicting advice and guidance by RTCA and Requirements to sign documents that public employees cannot sign.” Ex. 19 at 1. Mayor Lee added: “Additionally, there is a stark imbalance of perspectives and viewpoints favoring industry interests at the expense of local and state governments and members of the public. Because the process was flawed, the recommendations produced by that process are also flawed.” Id.

85. On the same day—November 8, 2017—the DAC held its fifth full Committee meeting at the Amazon Meeting Center in Seattle, Washington. Ex. 12. Mr. Elwell, then the FAA Deputy Administrator, attended the meeting and delivered remarks. Id. at 2–6.

86. The DACSC and each of the Task Groups delivered a progress report to the DAC at the November 2017 meeting. Id. at 7–18. Each Task Group discussed its substantive recommendations to the FAA. Id. at 8–14.

87. Task Group 2 also presented a final report intended for the FAA concerning drone access to airspace. Id. at 12–16. The DAC approved the report. Id. at 16.

88. According to the publicly available records of the November 2017 meeting, the privacy implications of drones were referenced only four times: once in a question posed to Task Group 2 and three times in a presentation about local government views on drone deployment.

89. On information and belief, the DACSC and the DAC Task Groups have continued to meet, confer, and engage in official Committee business since the November 2017 meeting.

90. Defendants have failed to publicly notice or announce any meetings of the DACSC or the DAC Task Groups from this period.

91. Defendants have also failed to make any DACSC or Task Group records from this period available for public inspection.

92. On March 9, 2018, the DAC held its sixth full Committee meeting in McLean, Virginia. Sixth Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) Meeting, 83 Fed. Reg. 7,284, 7,284 (Feb. 20, 2018).

93. To date, Defendants have failed to release minutes from the March 2018 meeting. However, Acting Administrator Elwell was scheduled to attend and speak at the meeting as the Committee’s DFO. Id.

94. The DAC’s next full Committee meeting is scheduled for July 17, 2018. Drone Advisory Committee (DAC), RTCA (2018).32

EPIC’s Attempts to Obtain DAC Records

95. On March 20, 2018, EPIC sent a records request via email to Acting FAA Administrator Elwell, DOT Committee Management Officer David W. Freeman, DAC Secretary Al Secen, and the RTCA’s general information email address. Ex. 18.

96. In its request, EPIC stated that it wished to access “all ‘records, reports, transcripts, minutes, appendixes, working papers, drafts, studies, agenda, or other documents which were made available to or prepared for or by’ the DAC or any DAC subcomponent. 5 U.S.C. App. 2 § 10(b).” Id.

97. EPIC asked the agency and Committee recipients to “direct EPIC to the URL or location where the full collection of DAC and DAC subcomponent records is available for public inspection and copying.” Id.

98. EPIC also advised the FAA, DAC, and RTCA of its records disclosure obligations under the FACA. Id.

99. As of April 11, 2018, EPIC has received no response to its request.

100. On April 6, 2018, EPIC Counsel John Davisson called and left a voicemail message for DAC Secretary Al Secen. Mr. Davisson reiterated EPIC’s desire to obtain access to DAC records and left a return number for Mr. Secen to call.

101. As of April 11, 2018, EPIC has received no response to this message.

Count I
Violation of the FACA: Failure to Open Meetings to the Public

102. Plaintiff asserts and incorporates by reference paragraphs 1–101.

103. Defendants have failed to open meetings of the DACSC and DAC Task Groups to the public.

104. Defendants’ failure to open DACSC and DAC Task Group meetings to the public is a violation of 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 10(a)(1).

105. Plaintiff is adversely affected, aggrieved, and injured in fact by Defendants’ violation of 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 10(a)(1). By failing to open DACSC and DAC Task Group meetings, Defendants have frustrated Plaintiff’s longstanding mission to educate the public about the privacy implications of drone deployment and about the federal government’s efforts (or lack thereof) to protect the public from drone surveillance.

106. Plaintiff has exhausted all applicable administrative remedies.

Count II
Violation of the APA: Agency Action Unlawfully Withheld

107. Plaintiff asserts and incorporates by reference paragraphs 1–101.

108. Defendants have failed to open meetings of the DACSC and DAC Task Groups to the public, as required by 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 10(a)(1).

109. Defendants’ failure to make these meetings open to the public constitutes agency action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed in violation of 5 U.S.C. § 706(1).

110. Plaintiff is adversely affected, aggrieved, and injured in fact by Defendants’ violation of 5 U.S.C. § 706(1). By failing to open DACSC and DAC Task Group meetings, Defendants have frustrated Plaintiff’s longstanding mission to educate the public about the privacy implications of drone deployment and about the federal government’s efforts (or lack thereof) to protect the public from drone surveillance.

111. Plaintiff has exhausted all applicable administrative remedies.

Count III
Violation of the APA: Unlawful Agency Action

112. Plaintiff asserts and incorporates by reference paragraphs 1–101.

113. Defendants have held numerous nonpublic meetings of the DACSC and DAC Task Groups in violation of 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 10(a)(1).

114. By holding nonpublic meetings, Defendants have engaged in conduct that is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law under 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(a) and short of statutory right under 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(c).

115. Defendants’ conduct constitutes final agency action under 5 U.S.C. § 704.

 

116. Plaintiff is adversely affected, aggrieved, and injured in fact by Defendants’ actions. By holding nonpublic DACSC and DAC Task Group meetings, Defendants have frustrated Plaintiff’s longstanding mission to educate the public about the privacy implications of drone deployment and about the federal government’s efforts (or lack thereof) to protect the public from drone surveillance.

117. Plaintiff has exhausted all applicable administrative remedies.

Count IV
Violation of the FACA: Failure to Make Records Available for Public Inspection

118. Plaintiff asserts and incorporates by reference paragraphs 1–101.

119. Defendants have failed to make “available for public inspection and copying” numerous “records, reports, transcripts, minutes, appendixes, working papers, drafts, studies, agenda, or other documents which were made available to or prepared for or by” the DAC, including but not limited to records arising out of the DACSC and DAC Task Groups. 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 10(b).

120. Plaintiff sought to inspect and copy these records, but Defendants did not make them available to Plaintiff.

121. Defendants’ failure to make these records available for inspection and copying is a violation of 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 10(b).

122. Plaintiff is adversely affected, aggrieved, and injured in fact by Defendants’ violation of 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 10(b). By failing to make numerous DAC records available for public inspection, Defendants have frustrated Plaintiff’s longstanding mission to educate the public about the privacy implications of drone deployment and about the federal government’s efforts (or lack thereof) to protect the public from drone surveillance.

123. Plaintiff has exhausted all applicable administrative remedies.

Count V
Violation of the APA: Agency Action Unlawfully Withheld

124. Plaintiff asserts and incorporates by reference paragraphs 1–101.

125. Defendants have failed to make “available for public inspection and copying” numerous “records, reports, transcripts, minutes, appendixes, working papers, drafts, studies, agenda, or other documents which were made available to or prepared for or by” the DAC, including but not limited to records arising out of the DACSC and DAC Task Groups. 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 10(b).

126. Plaintiff sought to inspect and copy these records, but Defendants did not make them available to Plaintiff.

127. Defendants’ failure to make these records available to Plaintiff constitutes agency action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed in violation of 5 U.S.C. § 706(1).

128. Plaintiff is adversely affected, aggrieved, and injured in fact by Defendants’ violation of 5 U.S.C. § 706(1). By failing to make numerous DAC records available for public inspection, Defendants have frustrated Plaintiff’s longstanding mission to educate the public about the privacy implications of drone deployment and about the federal government’s efforts (or lack thereof) to protect the public from drone surveillance.

129. Plaintiff has exhausted all applicable administrative remedies.

Count VI
Violation of the APA: Unlawful Agency Action

130. Plaintiff asserts and incorporates by reference paragraphs 1–101.

131. Since September of 2016, Defendants have held multiple meetings of the DAC, the DACSC, and the DAC Task Groups; engaged in substantive deliberations within and between the DAC, the DACSC, and the DAC Task Groups; issued official recommendations, reports, findings, and conclusions on behalf of the DAC, the DACSC, and the DAC Task Groups; assigned “action items” on behalf of the DAC to the FAA, the RTCA Advisory Committee, the DACSC, and the DAC Task Groups; and undertaken other official DAC business.

132. Defendants have engaged in this conduct without making “available for public inspection and copying” numerous “records, reports, transcripts, minutes, appendixes, working papers, drafts, studies, agenda, or other documents which were made available to or prepared for or by” the DAC, including but not limited to records arising out of the DACSC and DAC Task Groups. 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 10(b).

133. Plaintiff sought to inspect and copy these records, but Defendants did not make them available to Plaintiff.

134. By undertaking official Committee business without publicly disclosing records covered by U.S.C. app. 2 § 10(b), Defendants have engaged in conduct that is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law under 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(a) and short of statutory right under 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(c).

135. Defendants’ conduct constitutes final agency action under 5 U.S.C. § 704.

136. Plaintiff is adversely affected, aggrieved, and injured in fact by Defendants’ actions. By undertaking official Committee business without publicly disclosing numerous records covered by U.S.C. app. 2 § 10(b), Defendants have frustrated Plaintiff’s longstanding mission to educate the public about the privacy implications of drone deployment and about the federal government’s efforts (or lack thereof) to protect the public from drone surveillance.

137. Plaintiff has exhausted all applicable administrative remedies.

Count VII
Claim for Declaratory Relief Under 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a)

138. Plaintiff asserts and incorporates by reference paragraphs 1–101.

139. Plaintiff is entitled under 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a) to a declaration of the rights and other legal relations of the parties with respect to the claims set forth in Counts I–VI.

Requested Relief

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff requests that this Court:

A. Order Defendants to preserve all records prepared for or by the DAC, including but not limited to records arising out of the DACSC and DAC Task Groups;

B. Order Defendants to produce an index of all records prepared for or by the DAC, including but not limited to records arising out of the DACSC and DAC Task Groups;

C. Order Defendants to make available for inspection and copying all records prepared for or by the DAC, including but not limited to records arising out of the DACSC and DAC Task Groups;

D. Order Defendants to notice and open to the public all future meetings of the DACSC, DAC Task Groups, and any other DAC subcomponent hereafter established;

E. Enjoin the DAC, DAC subcomponents, DAC officers, and DAC members from holding meetings; conducting deliberations; issuing recommendations, reports, findings, or conclusions; and engaging in other official DAC business until Defendants are in full compliance with 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 10(a)(1) and § 10(b);

F. Hold unlawful and set aside any actions, findings, and conclusions of the DAC, the DACSC, and the DAC Task Groups which predate Defendants’ full compliance 5 U.S.C. app. 2 § 10(a)(1) and § 10(b);

G. Award EPIC costs and reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in this action; and

H. Grant such other relief as the Court may deem just and proper.

Respectfully Submitted,
MARC ROTENBERG, D.C. Bar #422825
EPIC President and Executive Director
/s/ Alan Butler
ALAN BUTLER, D.C. Bar #1012128
EPIC Senior Counsel
JOHN DAVISSON, D.C. Bar #153191433
EPIC Counsel
ELECTRONIC PRIVACY
INFORMATION CENTER
1718 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Suite 200
Washington, D.C. 20009
(202) 483-1140 (telephone)
(202) 483-1248 (facsimile)
Attorneys for Plaintiff EPIC
Dated: April 11, 2018